Check out this article from the Scottish Herald about FirstPoint USA Managing Director, Paul Goodwin for a little background in his recent success with Stirling Albion:
HOW the sizzle losT its spark4 Oct 2011
SELL the sizzle not the sausage. The old marketing maxim about enticing potential customers with the benefits a product can bring, rather than merely promoting the product itself, is one Paul Goodwin has clung to faithfully over a long and successful career. It served him well during his leadership of the innovative Buy Stirling Albion campaign, helped put a few noses out of joint during his time in office, and ultimately led to him walking away from the second division club this summer after just a year in charge. The journey was relatively short but never dull. Goodwin describes himself as a brand builder but he has the nous and street smarts of a wheeler dealer, too. The attempts by the Stirling Trust to prise their ailing club from the fingers of Peter McKenzie, the octagenerian former owner, and make it the first one in Scotland to be 100% community-owned was well-intentioned and honourable, but Goodwin appreciated from the start that it would take more than that premise to entice those without an emotional tie to part with the £40 membership fee. Hence came the sizeable sizzle. Andy Murray was brought on board, and others soon followed; Gordon Ramsay, Rio Ferdinand, and Cristiano Ronaldo were all revealed to be fans of the concept, stories that captured the imagination of the national media, which in turn led to a spike in membership – just as Goodwin had planned. Then there was the famous Compare the Meerkats tale splashed on the front page of a tabloid newspaper claiming the club would add Meerkats to its name. The story stretched the truth to breaking point – Compare the Market’s interest in sponsoring the club had been fleeting at best – but Goodwin knew it would capture the zeitgeist at a time when the campaign was starting to flag. Again he was right. “We tried to be innovative and part of that is sometimes just about keeping the momentum of the story going,” Goodwin told Herald Sport. “Every time you got hits on the website it led to more people thinking, “that looks good, I’ll give them my £40”. My background is marketing so it was about building the brand to make it stronger. “We were in Sports Illustrated, we did live interviews on NBC, and we were even in the Wall Street Journal. Stirling Albion in the Wall Street Journal! And that was because we were doing things differently.” After a protracted buy-out, chronicled in a forthcoming book, the takeover was finally concluded in July last year. Goodwin, in effect, became the new chairman, but his elevation did little to dilute his sense of innovation. Stirling, newly promoted to the first division, were not in the greatest financial health, but Goodwin and his team of directors explored all avenues to try to increase revenue streams, while also reducing costs. They sold the naming rights of the stadium to a local hotel, arranged a lucrative testimonial dinner in memory of Stirling hero Billy Bremner, and charged trialists for the opportunity of trying to win a contract. The manager John O’Neill’s budget was also cut by £100,000. The measures were not enough to keep Stirling in the first division but Goodwin believes the new board did their best in trying circumstances. “It was like no other business I had been involved in before,” he said. “The budget had to be cut three times before we started just to make it sustainable. The bookies wouldn’t have taken any odds on us being relegated, it was pretty much a certainty. There were so many battles we had to try to fight and we just didn’t have the time to get everything as we would have liked.” Complimentary tickets were scrapped to cut costs but it did not go down well with everybody. “On three occasions referees complained they weren’t getting their free tickets. Maybe it was just a coincidence but in two of those games we had a player sent off.” The end came too soon for Goodwin. His unorthodox approach led to a schism between him and the other Trust members, and Goodwin and several of his business cohorts resigned 13 months into the project. “The Trust wanted to run the club differently to how I wanted to do it. They felt I was attracting too much of a media profile and the club had effectively replaced one dictator with another. But that wasn’t the case. It was torturous to walk away because I knew what was coming behind me, that there was no succession plan. I don’t think the Trust has the right people with the requisite skillset to take it forward. It’s the drive and momentum that’s vital.” Goodwin is mulling over a number of offers from different clubs, all eager for him to repeat the Stirling success story, but in the meantime he is kept busy with his work with FirstPoint USA, a consultancy which helps youngsters earn scholarships at American colleges, and Football Insights, a project launched this week that aims to give clubs a better understanding of their fans. When he eventually returns to Scottish football he will do things slightly differently. “I genuinely believe fans should be involved in the running of their football clubs. It’s just how far that goes that’s maybe up for debate. Perhaps we should be looking more at the Bundesliga model where you have the fans’ enthusiasm and drive, combined with business backing.” And a little sizzle always helps too.