The Firestarters series of events took a sharp turn in our direction this week, with insight, and its role in the planning process, under investigation. Crowd DNA’s Andy Crysell took notes.

Three great speakers, and a mix of both singular and overlapping perspectives were on show at Google’s London HQ for the Firestarters’ Brilliance & Brutalism Of Insight event. It was wonderful to hear ‘the insight’ held in such high esteem, but also a firm reminder of how often that term is used wrongly, or there in name but not in reality.

First on stage was…

Rob Campbell, head of strategy EMEA, R/GA

Rob enjoys swearing and, now that he’s back in the UK, after lengthy stints in China and the US, he’s hoping he’ll get away with way more of it than ever before.

For him, the question of whether insight is important or not is pretty absurd. Of course it’s important. To do good work, he says, you need to understand wider culture; not just zoom in on your category.

Helpfully, he also came up with fives ways not to be as boring as fuck.

1. Don’t State The Obvious

A recurring theme through the evening really, and where research work can really lose its way. Stop asking the same people the same questions. Get out in the real world and get to the ‘dirty little secrets.’

He recalled the time that, for a car brand who mistakenly thought they were held in similar esteem to Mercedes Benz, Audi and Lexus, he interviewed sex workers, who make a call on the financial status of a potential client based on the motor they’re driving. Said car brand was in no way seen in a similar light to the prestige marques mentioned. This changed the conversation.

2. Play In The Jungle, Not The Zoo

Great work needs to come from inside of culture – so get inside of culture. Get to the nuance and the texture. There’s meaning everywhere. Get stuck in.

Don’t try and appease people with insight – provoke them, create conflict. This was certainly one of the louder messages of the evening; just as it should be. There really is no excuse for tame and timid work.

3. The Work is The Sun

…Meaning insight doesn’t have to overpower all other parts of the process. Insight is never meant to be a literal dictation – it should inspire.

Slight tangent perhaps, but he commented that the folks behind the boat that was almost called Boaty McBoatface missed a trick – if they’d have gone with that name, the scope to build a narrative around the topic (cartoons, toys etc) that kids would connect with would’ve been massive.

4. Stop Thinking You’re Yoda

Don’t think that insight will solve everything. Insight can provide the directional plan but you’ve got to then add the context. The challenge is to show you’re culturally engaged, not – as too many assume – to simply aim for intellectual victory.

5. Anyone Who Says Insights Aren’t Important Is A Giant Cockerel (you get what he means)

Henry Ford was an idiot, says Rob, referencing the Detroit mogul’s famous/apocryphal “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” quote.

Rather than this being an argument for not seeking the view of others, anyone with their insight faculties switched on should be taking from this that people want to get from A to B faster – and therein was the opportunity for the automobile, not a speedier horse.

Culture is texture and nuance
Culture is texture and nuance

Dr Helen Edwards, founding partner, Passionbrand

Helen starts her talk from the angle that not all successes, whether great or small, are necessarily derived from insight, citing a number of examples (from Apple to Emirates).

By this she was largely meaning the ‘killer’ consumer insight, the singular game changer. But while, in part, she was clearly here to be the dissenting voice on the importance of insight, what she was suggesting instead, ‘outsight’, could be argued as simply other forms of insight. Such as drawing from your own team’s understanding of their customers, or from academia, or from broader cultural understanding.

As per Rob, she noted the underwhelming qualities of many so-called insights. Choice examples: “When my hair feels good, I feel good.”/“I prefer my kids to eat healthy snacks between meals.” Shudder…

We clearly need to set the bar higher, and here’s the model she works to:

Revelatory: an insight should, of course, not just be plain obvious – but it should be surprising and a little obvious at the same time. An ‘of course!’ moment, because it feels fresh, but is also in line with what you already understand about human nature.

Directive: everyone across the business knows what to do with the insight; it doesn’t just live in the abstract.

About Them, Not You: as in that too many insights are shaped from the business perspective (either in the sense of taken from stakeholder experiences or based on what the business feels it can solve) rather what’s truly coming from the audience.

Serving People: there’s only real value in an insight if it addresses an issue that’s currently unaddressed, and from the point of view of the customer.

Helen gives the example of the Golden Sleep work from Pampers. Where previously the comms message majored around issues of averting leakage and offering better movement, the insight – which then shaped the campaign – was that what people (parents and baby!) really crave is sleep (wetness being a barrier to it) and that this is where the emotional energy can be found.

Pampers, Golden Sleep
Pampers, Golden Sleep

Mark Pollard, CEO, Mighty Jungle

Mark begins, amusingly, with hip-hip, lounge jazz, Chevy Chase and Andrea Pirlo. A little hard to explain in brief, in a blog, but somehow we get from there to some well-formed views on the role of insight (again, the lens here seems primarily about the role of insight in creative development work).

Insight, he says, works in one of two ways –

1. It gives language and shape to things we kind of have on our minds already (the ‘I wish I’d said it like that’ moment).

2. Or it’s ideas that seem brand new, but that you can immediately relate to (much like Dr Helen Edwards’ point).

Mark also leaned heavily on the role of insights as sources of conflict and friction. It’s okay to tell the client they have a problem to solve. That’s not being negative – not it you are then willing to take on that problem and reach solutions.

An example of a charged, provocative insight was an interviewee telling him: “I don’t feel successful enough to be bald yet.” You don’t need to know much about the brief, or the objectives, to realise that’s the type of thing you can work with; that’s going to change current thinking.

Mark also spoke of the need for craft. To really work at shaping an insight, capturing the tension it packs in a way that others will empathise with (thus, this is most definitely not about plonking fairly random consumer quotes in a PowerPoint and thinking your work is done).

Insights, he concluded, are really important; life and death stuff. But we also take them too seriously. We’ll get more from them with a greater sense of mischief and play.

You can read more about Google Firestarters here

From Now – To Next

Victoria’s Secret’s CMO recently argued against presenting a more diverse representation of women in their shows. Crowd DNA Singapore’s Emma Gage counter-argues that projecting the ‘where next', rather than just the ‘right now’, is exactly what their powerful event platform should be for…

We love a debate about culture and brands, so thank you, Ed Razek, for giving us so much to work with. And in the same week we launch our How To Speak Woman work.  It’s like we planned it…

For those who missed the story, or who have never heard of Ed Razek: he’s the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret and when asked in an interview with Vogue.com this week if they should be casting a more diverse representation of women in their shows (plus size, transsexual, older models… the list of possible ways they could be celebrating female diversity goes on) his response was a very clear: “No, I don’t think we should, because the show is a fantasy… we market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.”

Clearly this is a PR error and, of course, Victoria’s Secret have been quick to manage the fallout. But even without uttering those words, it’s evident what Victoria’s Secret’s stance is. Every brand touchpoint – from the show to the in-store experience; from the product to communications – is a celebration of a fairly outdated, and certainly one-dimensional, view of femininity. It’s a ‘fantasy’ told through the male experience. It’s why the brand is falling out of favour with young buyers and has been for a number of years.

But it does bring up an interesting point. The topic of gender is hot right now. Debate is loud and for a number of brands it can feel more minefield than opportunity. Consumers are calling for brands to have a stance on these kinds of issues and to walk the talk in every aspect of how they operate as a company – and when they get it wrong, people are quick to call them out.

At Crowd DNA we talk a lot about the power of cultural relevance. It’s the number one measure of brand health and while not every brand can be culturally iconic, a la Nike, Google or Gap, we believe that every one has the ability to be culturally relevant, whether selling shampoo, toilet cleaner or biscuits. 

So how do brands get this magic ingredient?  And how do they balance it with selling product in the short term?   

We believe it comes from working with a more nuanced understanding of the culture in which you operate and in which your consumer exists. It can be very tempting to play it safe and to generate lots of ever deeper insight around your core (often, mainstream) consumer. You understand how they buy, how they use your product, what they do in the supermarket, why they choose your brand rather than someone else’s. They take on the persona of ‘category buyer’, as though that’s literally all they are.

But how would her broader experiences as a woman inform her role as mother, wife, care-giver? How would understanding her as a three-dimensional woman change things and allow you to represent a world that’s relatable but aspirational, grounded but still progressive. This comes from also understanding her relationships; with her partner, her friends. The things she really cares about; her dreams, her ambitions and what empowerment looks like for her. And the things that limit or constrain her today.

It’s also about a culture tap; what does the trajectory of change look like? What’s influencing it? What are the more progressive narratives that are brewing (even if she’s not currently aware of them) to forecast what her world could look like in the future. The most powerful brands pitch themselves here, in the stretch and the aspiration, not in the quagmire of the reality.

It used to come down to a decision of whether you want to create a longer-term platform for activating your brand, or just sell product today. Now the two are one and the same. It’s not CSR; it’s about aligning your brand and organisation with positive change and having equity in cultural relevance.

We believe that brands have a responsibility to do better. To understand their core consumer, but also to understand this trajectory of change and to help them get there, be that practically or through inspiration. Whether you are Nike showing crowds of bold, empowered young women running through the streets of Mumbai (‘Da Da Ding’) as a celebration of how far women have come; or Ariel challenging men to ‘Share The Load’ in the household. This work captures a zeitgeist and presents a direction for a whole organisation to get behind. This is the kind of exciting work that gets called out for the right reasons.

So back to Ed. Yes Ed, we get it. Many of the everyday consumers buying your lacy undies are thin, ‘girly girls’ or at least they wish they looked like a Victoria’s Secret model. But what are you saying as a brand? How are you representing yourself? How are you part of an evolving conversation around issues affecting women? A brand with global reach, and a high-profile platform like the Victoria’s Secret show, absolutely has the opportunity to be culturally iconic and representative of the most progressive narratives surrounding the female experience today. Otherwise it just becomes an exceptionally expensive way to sell knickers and bras.

Come and talk to us Ed – we’d love to work with you and your brand.

How To Speak Woman

Crowd DNA’s Elyse Pigram and Roberta Graham offered an early-morning masterclass in female archetypes at our recent Rise breakfast in London. Here’s the highlights...

Putting the words ‘we need to stop talking about women, and start talking to them’ into full effect, our latest Rise event opened with a short film of women discussing their thoughts on female representation. The soundbites and anecdotes were overwhelmingly negative. Not a great way to start the day, but our presenters Elyse and Roberta explained how this was to be expected when stats show that only 14 percent of women in the US and UK relate to the way they’re represented in advertising (OnePulse research for Crowd DNA).

So what is it about representing women that brands don’t always get right? Why, as Roberta pointed out, amid all the current discussions, debates and rise of movements such as #metoo, is this still happening?

The presenters explained how part of the problem is that narratives surrounding gender shift at lightning speed, which, naturally, creates a very challenging landscape for brands to operate in. What’s more, debates around womanhood are often tied to wider cultural tensions and friction, which no doubt add to an emotionally-charged atmosphere. There’s a sense of urgency for brands to ‘get it right’ and harsh punishment for those who ‘get it wrong’ or jump on the tokenistic bandwagon.

To help keep on the right track of these ever-changing expressions, Elyse and Roberta used a simple framework based on Jungian archetypes and a past, present, future trajectory. First up, they explored how traditional female archetypes have been systematically reinforcement via, yep, you guessed it: ‘the lover’, ‘the innocent’ and ‘the caregiver’. Images of scantily-clad women, creepy child-like nymphs and proud domestic goddesses were deconstructed as a ‘how not to speak to modern women’ guide, before moving onto a more hopeful discussion around present narratives of femininity.

Current expressions were shown to be about claiming and reframing female archetypes. Whether it be ‘the hero’, ‘the rebel’ or ‘the every(wo)man’ (all traditionally male reserves), women are being depicted with a ‘girls can do it too’ attitude of strength and ownership. Furthermore, as more women are shown in these ways, traditional expressions of femininity are being reframed to be more culturally relevant to the modern woman. For example, narratives of ‘the lover’ are moving beyond overt displays of sexuality and objectification, towards a more conscious sensuality and portrayal of playful, female confidence.

Wrapping up with ideas around the future of female archetypes – which, Elyse explained, are not about eradicating gender and making femininity invisible, but simply about giving voice to fluid experiences around the world – it was shown how womanhood is being reinvented. Women depicted as ‘the creator’ is an exciting archetype to look out for, as are more blended expressions of gender altogether – with women (and men) embracing pick-and-mixed characteristics from across the whole archetypal wheel.

Thanks to everyone who that came along for croissants and a chat. For those who missed it, you can download our How To Speak Woman report here.

New Roles @ Crowd DNA

We're recruiting for a number of new roles in our London office right now. Exciting projects and amazing clients guaranteed...

Director – strategic insights 

We’re looking for someone with the confidence and leadership skills to take the helm of one of our work streams at Crowd DNA. In particular, we’re seeking someone with experience in finance and fintech, with a good grasp of the more future-facing ambitions driving this category. We’ll expect you to have worked on briefs in several of the following areas: thought leadership studies, product/platform/content development, new market entries, comms and positioning, audience understanding. You will report in to Crowd DNA’s London managing director, with incentivised targets to aim for and the scope to develop new innovations and growth opportunities.

Senior Consultant – quant & analytics

We’re seeking a confident addition to our quant and analytics team to get hands-on with leading projects from start to finish. You’ll need to demonstrate a flair for creative project design, experience in multi-market studies, and a passion for integrating quant and qual work. Solid segmentation experience and a track record of using advanced analytics, such as max diff and conjoint, is a plus. Reporting in to our quant and analytics director, besides leading projects, you’ll have the opportunity to sharpen your commercial skills, preparing proposals and working on business development.

Executive – quant & analytics

This is potentially an entry level role for someone who can point to relevant internship experience, or made for someone who has some work experience under their belt in a similar agency environment. Either way, it’s for a candidate who’s dedicated to shaping a career in quant and analytics-oriented insight, and keen to develop quickly in areas such as survey design, analysis and story-shaping. Reporting in to one of our directors, you’ll get to support our project leads on fascinating work at the intersection of data and culture for clients across categories such as media, finance, fashion and alcohol.

Associate Director/Senior Consultant – socialise content team

Socialise is the name of our in-house team of writers, designers, videographers and photographers, dedicated to creating content to bring new dimensions to our cultural insight and strategy work. We’re seeking a senior consultant or associate director-level hire (think 4-10 years experience), who comes with a strong track record in editorial/copy work, but who’s also confident providing direction and shaping ideas more broadly across design and video work. You’ll get to take the lead on content work for major brands, to line manage team members, be a key contributor to Crowd DNA’s own thought leadership work and generally ensure we’re an agency at the top of our creative game.

 


All roles come with great benefits (betterment scheme, training, sabbatical, company lunches and days out, flexi hours etc); the chance to work on some of the most stimulating and culturally-driven projects out there; and the opportunity to progress in an exciting and progressive business. To apply (attaching a CV and covering letter), please get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson.

Engaging The Leading Edge

Crowd DNA Singapore's Emma Gage recently presented at the Qual 360 conference on how we leverage the ‘leading edge’. It’s a powerful way to see categories, consumers, brands and products from different perspectives, she explains...

We often receive briefs that aspire to transformation; communications that will kill the competition, reinvention of flagging categories, the re-writing of brand stories to carve out potent spaces, or the development of new product and service ideas that will change the game. Everyone wants something new and fresh. But, generally, insight strategies are focused on the core: the mainstream consumers that are likely buying the product day-to-day.

Yes, Crowd DNA also spends a lot of time understanding core consumers; purchase journeys and decision-making; existing rituals, routines and behaviours. But we also know that ‘consumers’ (in the purist sense) can be limited in what they can provide us with. We know from behavioural economics that action mostly precedes attitude and certainly any changes in deeper values.

This is true the world over, but especially in Asia where contextual change happens rapidly and where there can be significant differences in lives lived even between siblings.  Consumers will struggle to articulate ‘why?’, no matter how deep you dig, and imagining ‘what could be?’, rather than just ‘what is’, is an even bigger ask.

The role of cultural understanding

This is where cultural understanding comes in; having the ability to look at what’s happening on-the-street, working back to the bigger trends and then the more fundamental macro changes being represented. For this we read, we keep up to date with various academic and cultural texts, we speak to our CrowdStars network of academic and cultural experts and we formulate a perspective on what’s happening with femininity, masculinity, the modern family, youth and so on. But what brings ‘cultural intelligence’ and ‘consumer reality’ together in the most powerful way is the ‘leading edge’. 

We engage them as consumers in their own right, finding out how they’re living their lives in different ways and the factors that are motivating them. We use them as on-the-ground scouts or citizen journalists, to observe and chart change; we use them for their perspective and their ideas, as ‘fresh brains’, sparks or controversial voices that will inject something different to the mix and will help to shake us all out of old ways of thinking. Or we use them as cultural gatekeepers; they may have a following, or create content that influences others and we’re interested in them engaging the people they know on our behalf.

Insight as disruptor

To see the value in these kinds of approaches requires a bit of a re-set of the role of insight. It moves it from directional intelligence, to disruptor and provocateur. For clients with a sense of adventure it can, if wielded in the right way, lead to very exciting new spaces.

The common fears are…  ‘aren’t these people a bit random, they have no relationship with my consumer and how will that help me sell shampoo?’  ‘Isn’t this just about the cool kids hanging out at skateparks, it’s probably only relevant for youth brands.’

While, yes, we do a lot of this work for the more typical ‘cool categories’ and for brands interested in youth and staying on-trend, we contend it’s just as relevant for biscuits, for shampoo and for laundry. Every brand should be aspiring to cultural relevance and if there’s a job of transformation to be done, doing the same thing you’ve always done won’t cut it. Seeing your category, your consumer, your brand and your product via a different perspective is powerful.

Leading Edgers take many forms, but they’re always relative to a market, to a category or to a brand. They are real people who also do their grocery shopping, but we’re engaging them because they have a different way of seeing things, or behave differently to the mainstream, or are just more in touch with fast cultural change.

Context and purpose

It has to happen in context, with a clearly defined role and reason for being. We use cultural understanding and trends work to inform who is needed and how we’ll do it. And once that is clear, we cast them. There’s more info on how we go about it here, but, in short, they aren’t a sample; they are a curated set of people representing a way of thinking, a lifestyle, a personality, maybe a category relationship (sometimes core, sometimes a different category) and a level of interest in what we’re trying to do.

Sometimes we work with the leading edge in short and snappy ways (to bring different angles to workshops, for instance) but, when we’re engaging them long-term, we have to keep them energised. We all know a relationship that’s purely transactional is probably going to be fairly empty and short-lived. So we give communities and networks a name and a sense of identity. We explain the bigger purpose and their role within it. We keep them entertained, interested and feeling useful.

We’ve done this kind of work for sneaker companies, manufacturers of contemporary Swedish furniture, for whisky, tech and for the travel industry. We now hope we can inspire a few more categories and brands to see what it can produce for them.

For more info on how we conduct leading edge work, reach out to Emma Gage (Singapore) Hollie Jones (New York) | Dr Matilda Andersson (London).

Words In The Workshop

Even the best workshop ideas can get lost in the action. Phoebe Trimingham from Crowd DNA’s Socialise team shares thoughts on how ‘live copywriting’ can be used to spot, enhance and lift them to the surface...

Workshops are a fundamental part of our work at Crowd DNA. They get people talking, thinking and really engaging with cultural insights. We use them at various stages of a project: from aligning teams around trends and topics, to ideating and developing new products and concepts. Whatever the purpose, we root everything (and everyone) in culture from the offset.

But workshops can be challenging. There’s a lot going on, a lot to take in, and a lot of structure required to make them a success. All to often, great ideas get lost within the action. At Crowd, we deploy various methods to make sure our workshops are always impactful.

Integrating live copywriting skills is one such exciting addition to a workshop design – and it can really help lift the day’s creativity and ideas, as well as enhance the clarity and quality of the final outputs.

Live copywriting has multiple benefits depending on the business challenge – but we think it’s most effective within concept development workshops. While there’s not really a one-size-fits-all approach to live copywriting, nonetheless here’s a few general best-practice tips that we’ve picked up.

Know what you’re walking into

It sounds obvious, but the more research of the workshop’s wider context – and the discourse surrounding it – the more prepared you’ll be to tackle the language challenges on the day. I make sure I’m briefed in by the wider project team at Crowd, understanding the category, competitors and cultural landscape; and getting familiar with any associated acronyms and industry-specific phrases. We always write a vocab sheet of useful words and thought-starters beforehand, and prepare a few ‘wish-list’ options of how we’d like to push the language further in the actual workshop.

Who, what and where?

Next, zoom in on the day itself. What are the aims and objectives of the session? We treat our role within it as we would any writing brief: who will read the final output? What is the purpose, what’s the story? Where will the final copy appear? Is it a summary report to present to stakeholders, for example, or a series of polished concepts to test with real life consumers? Once you know the intended audience and purpose, the tone and overall focus of what you’re writing will also become clear.

Listen and edit-as-you-go

Live copywriting is tricky, especially when trying to digest lots of people’s complex ideas into accessible language. The key to any good edit is knowing what to leave out. So listen carefully to what is being said and use your knowledge of the wider context and overall workshop objective to decide what’s important, and what’s worth getting rid of. Similarly, as you write, spot if any ideas are being repeated. Can anything be clubbed into themes? Does anything contradict, or disconnect from the overall purpose? Be prepared for one-off word challenges: ‘what’s a better way of saying X?’, as well as delivering polished rewrites of ideas as they’re being presented.

Remember: clarity is king

Lastly, if it feels like the language is complicated, it probably is. It’s the writer’s job to cut through the noise, so a good tip for dealing with complexity is to quickly sketch the idea out as a graphic, along with a collection of direct quotes underneath. Mark it up and return to it during a break to rethink and rewrite when you have more space. If you can, sit away from the group when they’re feeding back ideas, to allow you to focus on objectively writing up in the clearest way. Finding the right words is crucial when translating big ideas but, for even further clarity, we often pair our live-writers with live-illustrators to make the ideas as instantly understandable (and visually exciting) as possible.

If you’d like to hear more about how we use live copywriting in workshops, please email hello@crowdDNA.com for a chat.

 

Rise: How To Speak Woman

We need to stop talking about women, and start talking to them. Our next Rise breakfast session in London sees Crowd DNA’s Elyse Pigram and Roberta Graham explain how, as they set about future-proofing the female position...

Date: November 1

Time: 8.15am-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, 5 Lux Building, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

They say we’re in the era of women. That true, diverse representations of womanhood are finally shining through in brands and culture. This is due, in part, to women taking charge of the conversation – and business – surrounding femininity, gender roles and the female body; as well as huge cultural shifts, such as the #metoo movement and strength of mainstream feminism.

But what’s more: we’re welcoming in a new generation, with new rules. 80 percent of Gen Z women in the UK feel 100 percent female, and 39 percent would consider wearing clothes marketed to the opposite gender. These are the women revolutionising workspaces and sectors; transforming communities and businesses; starting families while inventing new ways of living – all with completely different expectations and priorities.

So as more expressions evolve and scripts of ‘womanhood’ are constantly rewritten, how can we keep up?

This session explores the past, present and future of female representation. Using this trajectory, we’ll ask how the female position can flex to be more open and off-script. In particular, we’ll explore what this means for brands looking to future-proof and remain culturally relevant to their female audience; many brands are still struggling to pitch the conversation right. And should we even be targeting women and men in a binary way at all? By looking at leading categories – such as personal care, sport, inclusive cosmetics and fashion – we’ll help brands harness new opportunities, while avoiding the slippery slope of superficial tokenism.

Join us in the Lux Building for delicious pastries and even more delicious insights. Contact Pauline Rault to come along – and pass this invite on to colleagues of any gender.

Watch the trailer below:

Moving The Goalposts

From streetwear ambitions to curated content platforms, Crowd DNA's Gabriel Noble spots five talking points in football...

With the season well underway in Europe’s high profile leagues, we’re getting to see the innovations and cultural connections that football is trailblazing, as it looks to compete with other major global sports – and indeed for a share of audience time versus other entertainment options more generally. Here’s what we’re seeing…

Football meets streetwear

When PSG played Liverpool earlier this season, you might have noticed something unusual. Rather than wearing jerseys with the Nike tick, they were emblazoned with the Jumpman logo of Air Jordan, a brand rooted in streetwear and basketball. The PSG x Air Jordan collab illustrates how football clubs are beginning to realise their potential as brands in popular culture and, as a response, building on their own merch capabilities. PSG have set the standard, but as lines between football and fashion continue to blur – Poet & Yinka’s collaboration with Puma on their LDN City pack boots, Virgil Abloh’s Off White kit, or Nigeria’s World Cup kit – other teams will surely follow suit.

We expect to see kit sponsorship deals balloon, as the likes of Nike and adidas capitalise on this development and integrate the clubs they sponsor into their lifestyle ranges. On the flipside, as streetwear continues its journey to the mainstream, more brands like Palace (see their adidas Wimbledon collab) and Air Jordan are likely to play in this space with limited edition ranges, or, at the very least, third kits, football apparel and boots.

PSG x Air Jordan
PSG x Air Jordan

Championing football’s new cultural angles

As football continues to secure its place outside of sports culture, so the media outlets diversify also – from the likes of Versus who ‘showcase the cultural convergence happening across the worlds of sport, music and style’; to Mundial, who build on football’s casual culture and produce a magazine filled with fashion features and untold stories of the game. Diverse voices are coming to the fore too. Through the likes of Caricom, which explores the space where football and the black experience intersect; and Season Zine: dedicated to empowering female fans. This year has also seen Eniola Aluko join the Guardian as their sports columnist, giving further credence to this progressive shift. In 2019, women’s place in football will no doubt rise, as the Women’s World Cup edges nearer. 

Season Zine
Season Zine

Owning the conversation

Over the last few years, clubs and players may have been asking themselves where they fit in the content landscape, and how they can own the conversation with their fans. Through Amazon’s partnership with Manchester City in their All Or Nothing doc, we might be getting a taste of what’s to come, as top clubs put out their own long-form content. The same goes for players, as we saw the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Raheem Sterling feature on Player’s Tribune, a platform that connects them directly with their fans. However, this trend doesn’t come without others losing out. Many commentators fear it might lead to less transparency and an exclusion of traditional media, with clubs and players looking to control their own message.

Player's Tribune
Player's Tribune

Integration of football and eSports continues

Football leagues and clubs have been getting more involved in the eSport space. The MLS introduced the eMLS Cup for the first time this year, with each club being represented by a Fifa gamer. Its success hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it has now been announced that the Premier League are doing something similar. In the past, eSports and traditional sports have seemed disparate and incompatible, as League Of Legends and Dota dominate. It’ll be interesting to see whether this push by top clubs and leagues can put Fifa at the same standing as eSport’s incumbents, giving the game a more meaningful place in the eSports category.

eMLS Cup
eMLS Cup

La Liga goes global

Probably the most controversial of developments, the 2018/19 La Liga season will potentially see Barcelona play Girona in a competitive game in Miami, at the Hard Rock Stadium. As clubs and leagues look to grow their fanbase across the world, it was only a matter of time before this was trialled. But the backlash to this demonstrates that there’s a way to go before football mimics American sports like the NFL, who have been present in the UK since 2007. In the meantime, we can continue to see pre-season as a way for clubs to connect with fans across the world, through the likes of the International Champions Cup, where the world’s top clubs play matches across the US, Europe and Singapore.

Miami's Hard Rock Stadium
Miami's Hard Rock Stadium

As well as these five areas, other interesting developments include the way tech is being used to produce immersive fan-focussed experiences as Siemens, The Economist and Bayern Munich provide the opportunity to track a game’s big moments through the voices of fans. Amazon have also finally made a break into Premier League rights, while OTT service DAZN continues to expand and grow in size across the globe, most recently setting up shop in Italy. From the pitch upwards, a lot is changing in football.