Client: LTFC2020 Ltd Consortium
PR team: William Murray Communications
Timescale: June 2008-April 2009
Budget: Less than £10,000
In 2008, Luton Town was one of the most troubled clubs in the football league. It had suffered a series of problems including financial difficulties that led the club into administration, demoralising fans and players.
On 7 October 2008, the club recorded its lowest gate in history - just 2,029 fans turned up to watch a match against Brentford FC, compared with the usual following of up to 6,500 supporters. Luton Town was also suffering in terms of performance, having been relegated twice in two seasons, and was hit with a record 30-point deduction by football authorities.
In July 2008, the directors of the club were ousted by a group of businessmen, who became the LTFC2020 Ltd Consortium. William Murray Communications was brought on board by the consortium to help reverse the club's fortunes.
- To communicate the transformation in the way the club was being run
- To boost morale, reuniting existing fans and re-engaging lapsed fans
- To place Luton Town FC at the heart of its multicultural community.
STRATEGY AND PLAN
The campaign focused on reaching the fan base through digital and social media. Virals were sent to create awareness and an email address was set up to allow fans to ask questions directly to the new board.
Each of the board directors targeted three unofficial Luton Town message boards, plus the Luton Town site run by the BBC, to answer fans' questions.
The club invested in its youth development department. Interviews with directors, talking about changes at the club, were also pitched to national radio and TV programmes.
MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION
The campaign was covered in national publications including The Times, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Sun, The Independent and the Daily Express. It also featured on national TV and radio channels including BBC Radio 5 Live, TalkSport, Heart FM, BBC TV, ITV, Sky Sports, Sky News and Setanta.
In total, the campaign appeared more than 2,000 times in local, national and regional press and broadcast media. To date more than 10,000 emails have been sent by fans, and answered by directors within 48 hours. One Luton Town message board, run by fans, has more than 260,000 unique monthly users - the highest traffic of any unofficial football site in Europe.
Luton Town has gained more positive awareness and coverage than any other professional football club outside of the Premiership in recent years. More than 80 per cent of fans know the mission statement and objectives of the new owners, and season ticket sales rose by ten per cent. The club has recorded the highest combined away following of any club in its division, and the Johnstone's Paint final between Luton and Scunthorpe on 5 April 2009 was a sell-out for Luton, with 41,000 fans in attendance.
SECOND OPINION - Chris Madel, Account director, London Communications Agency
As a lifelong 'Hatter' and witness to many false dawns over the past 20 years, even I have been impressed by the coverage generated by this campaign.
Placing new board directors in front of the media alongside a well known and trusted figure such as news presenter Nick Owen (another Hatter) was a neat idea and helped reassure fans the club was in safe hands. Approachability, somewhat lacking in past stewardships, was cleverly highlighted through web and viral campaigns seeking out fans' views, with directors then personally responding.
The siege mentality so often assumed by clubs in difficulty was avoided. This meant the club's image remained outward-facing and upbeat in the media despite its lowly position in the league, reinforcing a message about positive transformation.
The club's success in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy was timely and fully exploited, with national coverage of a successful local initiative to get as many fans as possible to the final at Wembley. Luton's multicultural fan base and community were also celebrated.
Of course, a full assessment should properly wait until next season, with Luton now outside the football league for the first time in its history.
If fans keep faith with the new board, attendances are healthy and, most importantly, the club can move back up the long football ladder, then this campaign will have played a key part in the revival.