What can business learn from the Rugby World Cup?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few weeks you’ll know that England is hosting the Rugby World Cup. Maybe your not at all interested and indeed I posed the question “ The Rugby World Cup. Does it matter?” on Salford City Radio’s Sportszone programme recently. We’ll come back to that a little later.

Even if your not into Rugby Union here are some statistics from the 2015 Rugby World Cup that should interest anyone in business. These are from the IRB report from Ernst & Young. The Economic impact of the Rugby World Cup 2015. Plus my own research.

  • The RWC is the 3rd biggest global sporting event after the Olympics and Football World Cup
  • In Single sport events only the football world cup has a bigger paying number attending
  • 95 Countries have been involved in 2015 RWC. Rugby is now played in 119 countries, supporting an estimated 6.6m players worldwide
  • The sport is the national game for many of these countries, Fiji, Samoa etc in context Samoa – Population 190,372 (Salford 218, 000) Fiji – Population 881,065 (Manchester 2.6M) – New Zealand 4.5M (North West England 7M)
  • Rugby World Cup 2015 is expected to attract around 466,000 foreign visitors to Britain
  • Visitor spend on matches and visiting tourist attractions of approx £869M
  • Investment in infrastructure for the Tournament is around £85 million, bringing lasting benefits to the Host Cities
  • In total, Rugby World Cup 2015 is expected to deliver £2.2 billion in output to the economy, translating into an additional £982 million of value added to Britain’s GDP
  • The number of jobs created approx 41,000
  • Global TV audience is estimated to be 800Million – 1.2 Billion
  • In the first two weeks of the tournament almost a million people attended matches

If your business is in one of the host cities for the RWC has it benefited? If not maybe you should be asking why and look at your marketing plan as there are some pretty impressive statistics in that list.

Regardless of England being the first host nation who have failed to get out of the group stages the International Rugby Board (IRB) can claim with confidence that the RWC has lived up to expectations both on and off the pitch.

The marketing has been superb and creative. The use of worldwide local rugby clubs and celebrities from different industries to tell stories to enhance the experience before matches has been masterful. As has taking the sport from it’s traditional southern heartland and bringing it north. Also the connections with local communities to engage them in health initiatives and the support for local businesses looks like it will bring lasting rewards.

It’s also helped that their has been some fantastic moments on the pitch. Are their negatives of course their are. Here are a few.

  • Tickets are extremely expensive and freeze out those on lower incomes
  • Not enough matches have been played north of the M25
  • Many foreigners have been dismayed by the lack of public transport co-ordination – although it did get
  • Some games should have been played at larger stadiums
  • Did the head coach pick the right team – that one will run and run

The IRB has been working on those and other issues as the tournament has progressed and managed to resolve some of them. Others will be worked on post world cup and it will remain to be seen if the team make an impact in the next 6 nations competition.

So what can business learn from this if anything?

First that planning is everything and even then things won’t go to plan and you have to be flexible and fast enough to implement fixes on the fly. Even if they are temporary and held together with sticking plaster.

Second your marketing and communication has to create a buzz around the event. So that even those who don’t necessarily want to partake at least take notice and remember your product/service/name.

Third create a spectacle for your product/service/event. Make it memorable. Enlist local celebrates to endorse you.

Finally when the event is over whether it was successful or not go through the steps and see what worked and what didn’t and why. This will give you great base information to use for future events.

So what was the result of the Sportszone question “ The Rugby World Cup. Does it matter?” arguing the yes case were rugby union supporters Lewis Hughes and I. In the no corner were football supporter Colin James and Rugby League supporter Rob Parkinson.

We had a lively and interesting debate but didn’t persuade Colin and Rob to become RU supporters. But they agreed it was a spectacle and that it has so far been a success and Colin even went to a game. So you can persuade people to become customers if only for a specific event or promotion.

If that’s left you feeling nostalgic here’s a couple of videos from the world cup to sing your heart out too.

Ella Eyre–Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Paloma Faith – The World in Union

Sportszone – Discussion “ The Rugby World Cup. Does it matter?”

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Coast to Coast Black Sabbath

You may think that’s an odd title for a blog but what do the Restaurant chain Coast to Coast and the fathers of everything metal Black Sabbath have in Common?

Let’s start with an instantly recognisable unique brand and product and carry on with great customer service and communication. Let me expand I attended the final night of Sabbath’s current leg of their world tour at a hometown gig in Birmingham on Dec 22nd 2013.

I had booked the tickets several months earlier through Sabbath’s website where I was asked if I wanted to leave my Facebook, Twitter and email details and I did.

From then on I had regular communications via all three channels giving me information; photographs, fan reviews and band interviews. Each of these reminded me that it would not be long before I would be with the band. Although I knew the same was happening with tens of thousands of other individuals on other continents I still felt special.

I felt part of a club a family even and as my anticipation and excitement grew the nearer the concert day came I took to social media along with thousands of others. This ensured Sabbath were constantly in the news as fans created a frenzy. Even on the day a couple of hours before the concert I got updates telling me the band were looking forward to the concert and they hoped I enjoyed it. This also continued after the concert. The attention to detail in communication was a masterclass in how to run a news/social media campaign for an event.

We arrived in Birmingham mid afternoon and after settling into the hotel went to look for eateries. We settled on Coast to Coast as it looked warm and inviting from the outside its signage caught your eye more than other restaurants on Broad Street.

So we stepped inside The Restaurant Group’sBirmingham restaurant and were met by a greeter with an engaging smile who was friendly, helpful and engaging in conversation. She introduced us to our server who took us to our table; she introduced herself and again engaged us in conversation.

Throughout the meal she returned to the table and rather than just ask how the food was or did we want another drink she engaged us in conversation each time. She also remembered bits from previous conversations and brought those into the current conversation. She was doing this for several other tables at the same time as were other servers.

The ambiance was very good and a lot of thought had gone into furnishings, uniforms and staff training and the food was pretty good as well. When we finished and paid the bill we had a five minute conversation with our server Josie and then the same with the greeter on the way out.

All this communication is meant to make you feel at home and want to return again, which it does. The face to face communication starts as you walk in the door up until you walk out again. But whilst you’re there, there are subtle hints about connecting with the Coast family via all types of social media. Of course when your friendly server asks you to fill in a feedback form at the end of the meal you can’t wait to do it.

That feedback form includes your social media details and the day after I received a thank you email for dining with them and special offer vouchers. As I am now a customer and part of the family I get regular updates about special offers, openings and information regarding Coast restaurants near venues where I may be going to a gig.

Now you may say others do this so what’s special about Coast and Sabbath. What’s special is that all that communication, branding, marketing and social media interaction is done seamlessly, effortlessly and unobtrusively.

By the time you sample the product you are fully engaged with it and can’t wait to taste or hear it. At that point the engaging human interaction seals the deal and you really want to come back to Coast to Coast just as you want Ozzy Osborne to be your best mate and go for a pint at his favourite Birmingham pub and tell you about his days in the factory.

As an experience both make it one you will never forget. Many companies get the marketing and branding right and even have a great product. But when you engage with them on a human level they don’t quite match the expectations they have built up.

If you want to make your business no matter what the size or sector more successful in 2014 checking out how Sabbath and Coast to Coast run their business would be time well worth spending. I believe Andrew page CEO of The Restaurant Group when he says they are thriving because of their customer focus. But the last word has to go to Ozzy “To each their own to question why, learn from each other so they say”

Have a happy and successful 2014

Can Government learn anything from Branson’s Employer Brand?

In the recent article “Branson’s employer brand Jessica Collingwood

Group People Director at Virgin explained why the organisation was an employer of choice. It’s down to the company ethos which is take care of your staff and they will take care of your customers this is embedded in the company culture. It delivers profits and higher shareholder value and everyone is relevantly happy company is described as a “funky” and “young” place to work.

Along with this effective ethos being human when dealing with staff, stakeholders, suppliers and customers is key.  As is allowing staff some flexibility and independence to work outside the script and understanding that one size does not fit all.  Whether that’s with staff or customer groups another factor is a relatively stable management team over a long period. Virgin does have problems like any other company and the average age of it’s workforce is higher than the funky young label might make you believe.  Collingwood describes it as a young at heart company.

So how does this relate to branding and employee engagement in local government? Many surveys from government and professional bodies have highlighted that very few councils are good at getting across the benefits of working for them.  It’s not rocket science so why is it so? First most HR&OD departments have been dealing with legislative implementations, various reviews leading to higher numbers of appeals and grievances.  This at a time when the workload is increasing and the staffing and budgets decreasing. In short they are wanting to get around to it, understand its importance to the business but there is just to much other really really important stuff to do.

Second and more importantly the minute you start to talk about the benefits of working for local government the unions and some disgruntled staff will immediately point out what has and is going to be taken off them. Which is a disincentive that does need addressing so let’s do that now.

In the last three years large numbers of local government staff have seen the following:

Reductions in pay due to restructures or job evaluation

No pay rise for a third year running

Increases in pension contributions, and having to work longer before getting a lot less than they thought they would on retirement

Loss of holiday entitlement  – up to 5 days by 2014

Loss of other benefits such as free parking

Reduction in training and development

No clear career path or promotional prospects

What is going to happen in the future?

The chancellor has signalled 1% max pay rises in the next two years

Significant budget reductions after 2015 meaning further job losses, pay cuts and loss of more benefits

Local pay which many believe is a means of reducing pay further

One other thing I must mention as I am sure someone else will if I don’t is that redundancy pay is not usually as generous in local government as it is in the private sector.

So why would anyone want to work for local government?

 

The pay is comparable or above local rates for some types of work

The pension although being reduced is still better than many private companies offer

Even though holiday entitlement is being reduced it is still better than many private sector companies

There are some good jobs and great careers in local government

The work life balance and flexibility is generally better than the private sector

There is a sense of doing something that matters for society and the community

There is often a good team spirit

Some of the problems local government face are similar to the private sector but others mean that it is not possible to stay as stable for such a long period like Virgin.

Private companies generally have a number of products they sell and a board responsible for funding strategy and direction.  Local government has a plethora of funding streams which are often conditional, the number of products and services they are responsible for is also wider than those of private companies. There are also many more political considerations and obstacles for local government Chief executives and their management teams.

These things do make it a challenging and often frustrating environment to work in.  Lack of funding means creative and innovate methods have to be found to deliver services.  It would be helpful to local and central government employees if our political masters would refrain from making it sound as though all the country’s ill’s are public servants fault. Like most other working people local government employees are trying to cope with the recession the best they can.  When was the last time you heard Richard Branson or Bill Gates denigrate their employees?

We keep hearing of a crisis of leadership and that management in this country is failing. Maybe it’s time our political classes learned how to motivate and enthuse instead of playing the blame game. Positive dialogue will increase the brand image of local government  and make it an employer of choice.