The Argument For A New Commercial Model – Ben Wells

January 20, 2015

We’re living through unprecedented upheaval. Economic pressures and a relentless technological revolution are driving rapid change in customer expectation.

These factors have spawned Google’s “Generation C”, whose media consumption is unrecognisable from any previous generation.

The desire to have a say in shaping the story, in sharing that experience with friends and having the ability to use that content to connect with anyone and everyone has already seen marked shifts in the movie, video gaming and music industries.

Football doesn’t know what is about to hit it.

Since the start of the economic downturn, virtually every industry sector has experienced a squeezed middle.

The survivors of the credit crunch picked a horse early on: they decided to compete either on price or value. Look at the divergence in the automotive industry, supermarkets, restaurants and elsewhere: thriving at the top end, thriving at the bottom; job cuts, downsizing and profit warnings in middle.

Football has tried to back both horses with the result that we offer a limited, short-lived experience at prices out of kilter with what’s going on around us.

Crowds and TV audiences are holding up for the time being, but we cannot assume it’s going to stay that way forever. Season Ticket Holders are getting older and most stadia have less connectivity than your average high street coffee shop: that’s not going to tick many boxes for the next generation.

The quality of engagement with live content has been eroded by media-multitasking. The younger the demographic, the more pronounced the behaviour. 

Sponsors (especially those seeking D2C engagement) and advertisers are usually a couple of steps ahead of rightsholders: if they start to believe that the model isn’t cutting through and they’re not getting full value for their money, where does that leave the traditional boards-and-boxes proposition?

Generation C don’t watch live sport. They don’t watch it live on TV either. They certainly don’t watch late night highlights shows.

Their world is Vine – legal or illegal – providing six seconds of instant gratification, wherever they are and on whatever device, before they carry on doing whatever they were doing. A new media distribution model can’t be far away?

Football needs to understand what’s around the corner. Fighting it is pointless. The answer is working out how to embrace it. We need a new commercial model, one which is based on investing in brand, customers and staff and thinking about how to deliver the best possible customer experience. 

A progressive, far-reaching model which recognises that without rolling with the punches, the next generation are just going to switch off and go elsewhere. 

We’ve had it so good for so long, but the next five years represents a crucial juncture for professional club football. If we get it right we can compete on value. If we don’t, we run the real risk of a race to the bottom.

Ben has seventeen years’ experience on the marketing side side of sport. Having spent six years at Chelsea FC, where he was Head of Marketing and a year as Commercial Director at Reading FC, Ben has set up his own consultancy, specialising in improving business model elasticity through genuine long-term customer engagement programmes. Prior to his time at Chelsea, Ben spent nearly four years at Redmandarin, the strategic sponsorship consultancy. Follow Ben on Twitter @ben_wells1 This blog appears regularly at

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