Boy, oh boy! Imagine my face when I got home from four days of business travel, switched on the ol’ computater, and found a cool video of the March to the Match (hereafter MTTM). “Hey, neat,” I thought. Then I looked at the tag and the title card and did the proverbial double take. Thus began a night I’d rather cut out of my memory.
Time for some background. We’re talking deep state stuff here; not even Jared Kushner knows this info. About a month and a half ago I was contacted by Louisville City FC’s front office regarding some interest from Great Clips. Apparently some of the Great Clips marketing folks and executives had been eating at the downtown O’Shea’s one fine evening when a bunch of purple clad crazies started banging on drums outside in the alley. They thought it was awesome and wanted to see how they could be a part of it. The club’s response was to say that it wasn’t their property and that they’d engage The Coopers to see what was feasible. Good so far.
Not long after that initial contact, I sat in on a conference call with the club’s corporate sponsor team and one of the folks from the Great Clips marketing agency. At the very outset I laid out some barriers that I knew shouldn’t be breached: no logos on the MTTM and no branding on the MTTM. Great Clips initially wanted to provide some branded banners and flags. I thanked them, but politely explained to them the supporter-led and organic nature of the tailgate and the MTTM.
We also discussed a video that they wanted to produce. I thought that was a great idea and told them so, and suggested that if they wanted to put a title card or logo on the video that would be fine. The thinking was that if they are going to pay for the production of the video, then they have the right to advertise their product in some fashion during the video. I felt I might have had to deal with some supporter pushback on that, but was willing to take on that argument if necessary. We then discussed Coopers partnership ideas along the lines of discounts and things of that nature, but never came to an agreement on anything. The call ended and I felt positive about working with another business to provide benefits for Coopers membership. I was looking forward to hammering out the details and sent a thank you e-mail saying I was happy to work with them. Then followed a month and a half of silence, during which I naturally focused on other things.
Now that you’re caught up, we’re at the point where a video gets released on the club’s social media which marketed the Great Clips March to the Match. Ruh roh, Shaggy. Within about 15 minutes I had fired off an e-mail to the club expressing my concern and asking for an explanation. As most of you know, the heaping of scorn commenced almost immediately. I won’t recap it here, so if you missed it and are curious then feel free to check out Twitter from last night (4/13).
This morning I received two phone calls, both from the Louisville City front office. The first went well. I expressed my concern but also my willingness to work with the club to repair the situation as best as possible. I did, however, specify the necessity of walking back the branding and issuing some kind of retraction. I tried not to be overly threatening but reminded them that the MTTM wasn’t a thing at all without the supporters. It was a very civil call and I hung up feeling positive. Later in the morning I received the second call. We discussed how the wording (Great Clips March to the Match) was the crux of the issue. It’s hard to brand (or sell the rights to) something you don’t own. Whether the club intended to do that or not, the fact of the matter is it appeared as if they were branding supporter property. I was then told how sponsorship deals are critical for the club and the supporters’ social media and blog posts were hurting the club. I very impolitely expressed my frustration, how I wasn’t going to stand for being told we’re not supporting the club strongly enough, and hung up the phone. Then I went for a walk, because I was about to break things.
As supporters, we buy season tickets, single game tickets, merchandise, etc. We likely do so in far greater volume than casual fans. I hear of people switching brands or businesses simply because the business is a Louisville City sponsor. We all understand the financial situation of the club and the nature of the Slugger deal. We do our best to contribute what we can. This, of course, extends to soft contributions such as the atmosphere we create on match day and the way we sell the experience to our friends and family. I’m willing to accept that this was a mistake and the way in which the Great Clips posts were worded was inaccurate.
However, a surprise like this after a month and a half of silence created a recipe for failure. When working to resolve a conflict with supporters, it’s never a good idea to imply the supporters are at fault for not accepting the co-opting of their property with a smile. I’m looking forward to hearing from the club once they get this worked out. Until then, I’m going to show up tomorrow, tailgate, do stadium setup, (hopefully) march in, and scream my ever-loving head off to help the boys to a victory over the Rowdies. And for at least tomorrow evening I’ll forget how poorly this has been handled, and focus on what I love: being a Cooper and a supporter of Louisville City FC.