I currently work in Tanzania and in my 18 months here I had previously only seen one Everton shirt amidst a plethora of the usual nauseating EPL suspects. On that single occasion, I almost crashed the car due to genuine shock and an immediate desire to hug the man as he cycled passed me. Luckily for him (and his hetrosexual reputation in the village), I didn’t succeed. (If you want to see a highly amusing but equally scary view of East African perceptions on homosexuality look for Eat da poo poo on YouTube.)

Over the last month, these shirt sightings have increased to four and I have never been happier to see that God-awful hobbit house badge. Ok, thats a bit unfair Bilbo Baggins wouldnt be seen dead living in that dump.

Four shirts ... so what? Its obviously not earth shattering by any standards but, to me, I think its very significant.

Being a self-confessed fanatical Blue (much to the frustration of Mrs P an ex-red who has been successfully converted the marriage obviously depended on this condition), I have held many a conversation (both sober and otherwise) with local football lovers during my time over here. They would wax lyrical upon their respective EPL teams virtues whilst showing a real knowledge and passion for their club. They always showed a begrudging respect for Everton but stated that we never even entered their mind when theyd made their club of choice many years ago.

The EPL in East Africa is huge, shown on the South African broadcaster SuperSport, and interest is growing all the time. Whilst personal TV sets are unheard of in the vast majority of households, most villages will have somewhere to go and view games. Match days in such places can be great fun as people try to gain a spec on often flickery pictures beamed in from thousands of miles away. If only Goodison nowadays had an atmosphere as vocal as Ive witnessed here. (Why arent we singing any more?) As youd expect, the games of choice are very much normally the Sky 4 teams but, as our recent fixtures have included the Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal’ we have had increased exposure.

We are now very much an emerging presence on peoples footballing radar. The day of the Stoke match, I was in a bar and requested our game be put on the main screen normally this would have been met by incredulous looks and polite howls of derision but this time it was met by heads nodding appreciatively. Following the ensuing performance, the watching group were all smiles and compliments about what an exciting side we are.

The difference this season is that our style, performances and results appear to have mainlined us into the forefront of peoples minds. We no longer seem just to be perceived as a tough irritant to be overcome twice a season, but as a genuine force to be reckoned with that plays really good football. Not only are we often emerging to be many peoples second team we are now under serious consideration (by a small portion) of new fans as their lifetime team. This is probably replicated around the globe and represents a significant leap for us.

For every glory hunter, half-hearted wannabe, coat tail clinging part time supporter out there there is also the free thinker, the discerning individualist, and the dreamer who are beginning to glance admiringly at our club. And these people can and will, to a forward thinking Everton board, present a real and tangible opportunity.

Its always appeared to me that our domestic marketing approach was lacklustre at best (I thought Everton 1 and Everton 2 were marks out of ten for the boring range of the clothing sold in these outlets) but our overseas strategy, in reality, is seemingly non-existent.

I have been fortunate to visit every continent bar Antarctica (but weather wise and culturally isnt that just roughly akin to Middlesborough away in January?) and everywhere Ive been the EPL is THE foreign league that dominates TV stations, media and minds. I believe that in all these places we are currently capturing the imagination of many fans and generating a level of interest weve never previously enjoyed.

Can we not utilise the business and marketing acumen of Sir Terry Leah, Sir Peter Green, etc, to help us into the many business opportunities that potentially now exist out there? Or am I just sirpossing that they give a toss?

Can we not spend the equivalent of one (mediocre) first team players wage (ie, a hell of a lot) on employing a world class, proven, strategist who can jump start us out of our current ’70s thinking and into 2013-14? I for one would happily trade Naismith for such an individual (and who knows he or she, if needed, might be more effective on the pitch as well).

I dont propose to understand the Kitbag and Nike deals currently in place with the club... but surely we must have room to manoeuvre commercially? If we have given everything away to them leaving ourselves stuck in long term deals exempt from any kind of self-expansion then the club have shown all the foresight of Mr Magoo Enterprises. We will continue to fall behind our competitors when the prospects for expansion through TV exposure, advertising endorsement deals, the explosion in social media, etc, must offer up money making opportunities. However distasteful some may find it, we must look to make ourselves into a brand and that doesn’t happen overnight or by prayer it is by having a meaningful, long-term strategy overseen by full-time professionals, advertising agencies, etc.

If we do indeed go on to to clinch a Champions League position then again the exposure levels increase exponentially. More exposure leads to more fans, which leads to more money, etc. It becomes a circular rolling stone gathering monetary moss. (After a sentence like that, I’d better stop this soon.)

Many foreign fans in poorer countries have no disposable income available that could assist our coffers but, wealthy or poor, another Evertonian joining the fold enriches my soul. But a growing fanbase in Scandinavia, the Low Countries, etc, could lead to a meaningful source of income. Many of the richer foreign fans fly in to watch games and buy merchandise every Anfield home game is proof of this. (If I ever wanted to invade Norway, Id do it on a Saturday afternoon during a Liverpool home game. Oslo would be mine...)

Emerging markets, like the US, through the NBC TV deal, are potentially full of promise. Just read some of the great articles done on this site by our American cousins on how sports fans there are getting into soccer and beginning to choose their team. Our style of play, heritage, atmosphere and passion must make us a viable option. They wont entertain counterfeit merchandise there and corporate interest in an emerging brand could lead to additional revenue streams.

I dont profess to have any answers even my questions are dubious but I am aware of the opportunities availing themselves to a progressive and forward thinking club. Can we take advantage of these? only time will tell.

As the title of this piece alludes to that the Kevin Costner picture, Ill end it with a bastardised quote from the film put into a marketing context: Build it (up) and they will come.

Surely this is an away game we must win.

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Reader Comments (17)

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Phil Friedman
1 Posted 13/12/2013 at 20:22:55
I became a supporter a few years ago here in the States when Fox held EPL broadcast rights and showed Everton sporadically (mostly when we were playing 'bigger teams'). But there was something about the club that was captivting, and I was hooked, even making a trip to Goodison last spring for OFM's sendoff. Now that NBC has taken over the US rights, and are showing every game either on TV or streaming, my interested has increased exponentially. Since NBC has flooded the market with games, the opportunities for increasing our fan base are immense, because most people here don't have long or deep affection for any team, and with the way we are playing this year we can pick up a lot of interest. Somebody in the corporate office--take note!
Terry Murphy
2 Posted 13/12/2013 at 20:30:41
I ran into an Everton enclave in Hawkes Bay New Zealand - all avid fans since the mid-nineties. I was mystified, I mean why would would you do this to yourself? I was born a blue, but even through my blue-tinted glasses, I could see no reason why anyone would volunteer for the heart-break and nut-kicks that epitomised that era. Now however.....
Bjørn Trangsrud
3 Posted 13/12/2013 at 20:30:35
Spot on! And as an Norwegian Everton fan since the 1989 FA Cup Final, I can confirm that it seems like Oslo and other major cities are empty on a Saturday if RS plays at home... And maybe one good reason we Norwegian Everton fans always feel that we are more than welcome to either Goodison or Everton away games.

Sort for the distraction. You have good points regarding marketing options. It's room for improvement to say it in a nice way. Hopefully our growing USA fans base can be the start to something?

Barry Rathbone
4 Posted 13/12/2013 at 20:39:58
Mate there are Evertonians hiding everywhere the river Mersey sent shiploads hither and thither from the early 1900s, work seeking refugees from the 70s and 80s and their descendants are like missionaries lieing in wait all over the globe.

The amount of times travelling someone hears my accent confesses a merseyside family connection followed by " I'm an evertonian" is legion - it's like the masons.

Won't be so secret if Roberto keeps this start up, then watch those shirts appear.

Nil Satis .....

David Chait
5 Posted 13/12/2013 at 21:03:22
Jim! I've seen you post here often enough.. But dude.. I'm also in Tanzania! In Dar... Are you in Dar?

I've seen one shirt, worn by a local hanging around the French pre primary school.. I checked my cupboard when I got home!

Anyway, keen to watch a game with a fellow blue give me a shout!

Dave Lynch
6 Posted 13/12/2013 at 21:50:28
So when the shirts start appearing if we get success will they be classed as the glory hunting hoards we so despise ?
Mike Gaynes
7 Posted 13/12/2013 at 23:44:28
Nice piece of writing, Jim. If you don't mind my asking, what endeavor is it that takes you to so many corners of the world?
Stephen Davies
8 Posted 14/12/2013 at 00:34:05
I was in Tanzania & Zanzibar last year and they are mad about football
Never met an Evertonian though. Mostly Arsenal & Man U I found but I did try my best to convert.

However the type of football we are playing plus the presence of Lukaku will increase our exposure in the African countries.

However I think the USA presents a massive opportunity for us. Man U have the Yankees LFC have Boston, who should we shack up with?

David Kershaw
9 Posted 14/12/2013 at 00:56:13
Spot on Jim .. I have lived all over the world and really the profile of the club is pathetic. As a club with have no policy of getting our name out there (not 100% sure but if we do have a policy it's amateurish. )

City have put money in a local school here in NYC but you can't even buy an Everton shirt in the Nike shop . I think I spend more on promoting our name than the club (everywhere I go there I sponsor kids teams with EFC shirts )

Pat Finegan
10 Posted 14/12/2013 at 02:11:14
Dave (217) I've always wondered if that would be the case if Everton ever really managed to get big. If I meet another Everton supporter I know they are educated on the game. We all know our team inside and out. Some Manchester United "fans" here in The USA still think Sir Alex is their manager. I don't know if I really want that destiny for our club. That's the price of success that we don't really think about.
Jim Potter
11 Posted 14/12/2013 at 03:46:50
Bjorn ... obviously if I did ever invade Norway I'd make you King. Obviously you and your Bluenose mates got all the good genes.

David 195. Yes mate - in Dar (most of the time).

Mike 250 I'm a drug dealer..................not really.. Most of my travels have been just holidaying - but for the last 18 months I've been working in the mining industry. We'll have to find a way to hook up.

Jim Potter
12 Posted 14/12/2013 at 05:02:19
Sorry - I meant David - we'll have to find a way to hook up - but you can come too Mike.
John Barnes
13 Posted 14/12/2013 at 07:09:46
They cant even get it right locally. Why haven't they bought the Winslow and turned it it into the type of facility they cry about not having?
Why is the 'Blue House' a Chinese takeaway making fortunes offering match day specials?? Two pubs with genuine historical connections to the club. They could even coin it off RS fans on their way across the park, although they might make more if it was at the airport!! The shirt deal beggars belief.
Paul Johnson
14 Posted 14/12/2013 at 06:42:32
Jim, made me laugh and brought back great memories. I have been in Africa for 4 years now. 1 year in Uganda, and nearly 3 years in Kenya and I am now in Nigeria. I had the pleasure of 2 weeks in Moshi, Tanzania.

The reason I laugh is that one lunch time I took a walk down to lake Victoria in port bell, Kampala with a fellow muzungu. To my total shock approaching me was a Marco Matterazi one to one shirt. For those who haven't been to Uganda they are not a tall people. I am 6' 2" and at that time around ahem 18 stone. Well I bear hugged this 5' 2" 7 stone guy. I swear at one point he had tears in his eyes. His mate looked very disturbed, backed off and picked up a rock.

When I put the guy down ( Moses ) and he realised that I wasn't after a piece of his arse he explained (it took half an hour for a 5 min conversation) that he had been given the shirt by a relative who had studied in the UK at John Moores. But this guy was a part time fisherman come charcoal maker.

At that time Uganda had put a bill to parliament for the right to jail and execute homosexual men. Marco Matterazi would have had a lot to answer for then.

Everywhere I have travelled I have dropped memorabilia as you say they are EPL crazy. Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd are the big guns out here and you get some poor misguided souls who follow the shite (I have been asked by a Nigerian colleague to pick a shirt up for his 8 year old boy. Should I get the name spelt wrong on the back). Man City are now becoming a big player. It used to be that they would follow these clubs for the African connection but that is not now the case.

Africans want to be associated with success so if we can somehow win a trophy and get our marketing right there is a huge opportunity here. The continent's growth is massive compared to the rest of the world with the middle classes due to quadruple. In Nigeria alone the population is going to go from 150 million to 350 million by 2050. Just think of all those shirt sales and get this all the big cities have Adidas and Nike shops. You can get a City, Arsenal and Man Utd shirt but not an Everton one. Now if I am not wrong we are probably the biggest importer of Nigerian internationals: Amokachi, Yobo, Yakubu and big Vic and yet we have no presence in one of the biggest global growth opportunities. Sad and worrying.
I wonder if Moses still thinks fondly of me.

Paul Johno
16 Posted 14/12/2013 at 09:46:39
"Can we not utilise the business and marketing acumen of Sir Terry Leah, Sir Peter Green, etc, to help us into the many business opportunities that potentially now exist out there? "

I've been thinking this for a while now. There are also, no doubt, lots of others within our fan base with suitable skills.

Although we are sadly lacking in the merchandise sales department - contrast with the RS that sell more 'stuff' than our entire turnover (TV+tickets+merchandise) - we must ask ourselves what scope there is in this area.

This is not due to the global addressable market, more to do with the restrictions that no doubt exist either on the supply side (can we get enough kits from Nike?) or contractually (Kitbag deal restrictions?).

We definitely need to do something while we are playing well and in a good league position under RM. To not capitalise on the multiple US connections as the EPL goes wall-to-wall over there is marketing suicide, plain and simple.

BTW, thanks to the previous poster with whom I share the same name I've had to register with a new handle ;-)


Mark Taylor
18 Posted 14/12/2013 at 17:19:11
The international football rights are now the biggest single source of income for EPL clubs and it will grow at a far more rapid rate than other income sources. While many still believe bigger stadia are a key to success- and in the short term they are important- the real key to long term growth is through global exploitation of the Everton brand (and yes, of course it's a brand)

The scope is massive. Football is the world's most popular sport, played pretty much everywhere and with a massive following and the EPL is probably the world's biggest and most successful franchise. Africa may be fairly poor right now, but it won't be forever and in the meantime, you have Asia, America, the Middle East, all without truly top level leagues of their own.

So the author is correct, this is a big opportunity and I think we punch way below our weight. I think we do have a real opportunity because we have by far the deepest heritage of any of the top clubs. If I were to look at positioning the club, I'd be drawing a great deal on our being an orginal, authentic, founders of the world's greatest league and winning it way before any of these other Jonny come latelies like City or Chelsea.

There are many factors to success here and too many to detail here, but some pointers
- clearly success helps drive awareness so the better we do on the pitch, the better our chance to become known and therefore adopted
- players are also a factor in generating local support; for example, we have a bigger following in S Africa because of Pienaar. We don't want to choose players purely on this basis (Lie Tie, anybody?) but equally we should be aware of this in looking at transfer targets
- the other way you can get better awareness is through the right sponsors. Here we are poor to terrible. A Thai beer is all very well for building a support base in Thailand, but gets us no further. Man U have got their sponsorship strategy well organised, a partner (and therfore someone willing to promote them) in pretty much every global market. Check out our sponsors, both in terms of scope and quality. People like Sodexo and Kitbag are suppliers, not really proper sponsors. How are they going to help build awareness?
- another way is through your star players. Madrid sussed this out with Ronaldo. Expensive though he was, he is probably also the best money they ever spent. We missed out on Rooney's presence in an Everton shirt for much beyon a blink of an eye; if Ross pushes on and does well at the WC, maybe he could be a spearhead.
- one thing we could do with re the stadium is more corporate hospitality boxes, 12 is laughable for the ambitions outlined above.

Do the board have the vison or ambition to realise our potential. Personally I think the answer to that is obvious....

James Hughes
19 Posted 15/12/2013 at 13:53:34
Jim, it's not just Kitbag we should worry about.

Our caterers whom we have a 'partnership' with well, I used to work for them (down south). Let's just say their ethos is very much to "capture that charge" and bill the client for everything and anything. I doubt we are getting value for money.

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