I’ve recently been researching into various campaigns, trying to understand what makes them successful and why so many fail. Then last night, whilst watching Wales beat Andorra in what was an underwhelming game of football—I realised I had been part of and bought into an incredibly successful campaign. The campaign that has helped the Welsh football team qualify for Euro 2016, their first major international competition since 1958.
I’m a life-long Welsh football fan. My dad has taken me to games since I can remember, and there have been many ups and downs. If I’m being honest mostly downs—I remember sitting in an almost empty Millennium Stadium watching an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Armenia, feeling depressed but still chanting “Iwan Roberts La La La La!”. These were pretty dark days for Welsh football, the team weren’t doing well and the fans weren’t interested.
The beginning of something special
As Welsh fans, we never expect to be successful so when we get a taste, we really do enjoy it. A few years back the late Gary Speed got a group of talented youngsters together and for the first time in a long time, the future was looking bright. The FAW didn’t let this pass them by, instead they kicked off a fantastic campaign that inspired a nation.
A brilliantly executed rebrand
Firstly, they gave Welsh football a face-lift with a brilliant rebrand. They developed a new logo and design style that helped Wales look and feel like a world class footballing nation, whilst protecting the history and heritage. They also recruited adidas to be the team’s kit supplier, which for a guy who grew up wanting to design football kits for a living was a big win. Although there’s something nostalgic about the old Lotto and Champion kits, I think any fan would have swapped for Nike or adidas.
Embracing the heritage
Now we looked the part (notice I said we), the FAW set out to inspire their fans and get them to support the team. As I mentioned this support definitely was not unconditional, so they needed a meaningful message that fans would buy into. They looked to the nation’s heritage, since 1951 Wales have had the words “Gorau Chwarae Cyd Chwarae” on their crest—this means ‘Together we are stronger’. Great players such as Charles, Rush and Giggs have worn this crest over the decades, so it is deeply ingrained into Welsh history. Inspired by the crest, the FAW coined the new campaign name, strapline, tagline, hashtag, call it what you like. It was simple and bold; Together. Stronger.
It was a good move drawing the name from the nation’s rich history, but what gave the name real prominence was it’s relevance. In Wales, I think we’re very realistic about our identity and what we’re capable of. We know we’re not Brazil or Spain (the FIFA rankings may suggest otherwise), spoilt with a wealth of world class players, although we do have one or two. What we do have is a group of good players who have been nurtured by the coaching staff and a stadium full of singing supporters, albeit because we’re winning. This togetherness and passion has been a recipe for making Welsh footballing history.
Getting everyone involved
We live in times where we’re constantly reminded to not forget to use the hashtag. It helps create a community, a discussion and an effective way of sharing our experiences. Just last night, I found a photo on Twitter of the Welsh flag created in the Canton Stand during the national anthem, so I replied with a photo from my unique point of view underneath thousands of pieces of card.
The #TogetherStronger hashtag has helped thousands of fans share their experiences. It’s also been a great way to include everyone. The FAW have done a marvellous job of sharing photos, videos and information through social media—it has helped bridge the gap between the players and the fans. Thanks to videos like Hal Robson Kanu dancing in John Lewis the campaign has helped to humanise the superstars.
Being at the games, I can honestly say it’s been the best atmosphere I’ve experienced at a Welsh game over the last 20 years. Even Gareth Bale has referred to the Welsh fans as ‘the best in the world’, even though I’m not sure I 100% believe him or agree with him—you can see how much he and the team are enjoying this period of Welsh football.
Many moving parts
I’m not naive, I know I wouldn’t be writing this and that the fans wouldn’t be so passionate and the togetherness wouldn't be quite so strong had Wales lost their first four games. There are a lot of moving parts and I believe the FAW have made some great decisions. For example, if the home games were played in a half full Millennium Stadium, I would have fancied Belgium to beat us.
In summary, this campaign was a success because it embraced the history, had a meaningful message, a clear goal and it engaged an entire nation (of football fans).
The twelfth man
There’s an old saying in football that loud and passionate supporters can be the twelfth man on the field. I believe the #TogetherStronger campaign has truly helped the Welsh team and their twelfth man make footballing history.