Chelsea’s Successful Branding Strategy

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In an era of corporate branding, Chelsea has accomplished the impossible. It has successfully differentiated itself. In an attempt to remain inoffensive to all creeds, religions and cultures, football clubs tend to inculcate an anonymous, global personality. Such a strategy can counter intuitively end up alienating potential supporters. It can even backfire when would be fans fail to develop deep allegiances to an entity that is so inoffensive as to be Michael Owen-bland. Somehow, Chelsea has managed to standout in the milquetoast marketplace of club football.

The key to Chelsea’s distinct brand is Jose Mourinho. The charismatic Portuguese affects change in a top down manner. His greatest contribution has been establishing his famous siege mentality as a fixture of Chelsea’s social media. Club accounts generally tend towards safe (and dull) content. You can expect a few Instagrams from the training ground, a new Facebook cover photo on match day and a tweet with an innocuous quotation from a press conference. Not so with Chelsea.

The club’s social media department has wasted no time in adopting Mourinho’s “us versus them” offensive. After declaring that there was a campaign against Chelsea influencing referees’ decisions, Mourinho was fined £25,000. The club’s website stuck by its manager and published “Penalty Puzzle”, delineating the “abnormally low” number of penalties given to Chelsea this season. Chelsea’s Instagram has also been busy propagating Mourinho’s conspiracy theory.

Graeme Souness and Jamie Carragher made themselves unwitting targets for Chelsea’s social media when they commented disparagingly on the Chelsea players’ adamant appeals to the ref. The club’s Instagram posted an image of Souness and another of Carragher, each in the act of berating a referee. The caption could have been penned by the manager himself, “For those with short memories…”

The ellipsis speaks to the coordination between the club and its manager. The “dot dot dot” embodies the enigmatic, cagey, special nature of a man so gifted in manipulation that he has successfully influenced the punctuation selection of the club he manages. What would a Brendan Rodger’s caption read? What sort of punctuation would it have? Probably something aggressively forgettable with a forced exclamation point. Chelsea are lucky to have a manager with not only opinions but also the recklessness to express them. Such a combination is a rarity in the fine-happy world modern football.

Sure, some have laughed at the club’s promulgation of Mourinho’s theories and at Mourinho’s antics. But without the manager’s willingness—nay, enthusiasm—to be made into a new meme every week, Chelsea would be as nondescript and faceless as every other club out there.