Once upon a time depicts the start of a fairy tale. Nonetheless, this expression also illustrates the chronicle of past events influencing a modern football brand like that of Liverpool FC. Today, I participated in a discussion about the positioning of Liverpool FC’s brand on the Danish TV-channel 6’eren as part of the broadcasting of Liverpool’s match against Wolverhampton. The meaning of history and legacy in influencing the presence and future of a football brand is vital. In addition, the meaning of the title and thus the fact that Liverpool FC has ‘more than one season to remember’ reflects that shaping Liverpool’s brand over time is a multi-dimensional scenario but highly associated with being a top club for many years. History provides an understanding of contemporary existence and helps to set the direction for the future.
Photo: Liverpool FC discussion in the Danish media.
Winning is good for business
In doing so, the accessibility and articulation around Liverpool’s huge success in the 1970s and 1980s is an important cornerstone of the club’s strong global fan culture today. The exposure on television at the time forms a platform shaping the club’s fan culture. Moreover, the interactional nature of its brand acts as powerful combination plays with mutual understanding between the club, the coach, the players and the fans as central actors. These passionate offensive playing patterns emphasize the sporting performances seen on Anfield in the club’s recent and stunning comeback against mighty FC Barcelona in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Semi-finals. These performances appeal to the demand of the current sponsors and the media.
The dynamic feature of a football brand shows the accounts found between the past, the present and the future scenario of the club while elevating the importance of fandom to understand the uniqueness of Liverpool FC as a global football brand. Throughout time, the accounts showed peak performances leading to domestic and European titles and consecutive periods of dominance in the 1970s and 1980s but also challenging times in relation to the Heysel and Hillsborough incidents.
Infographic: Clubs with most UEFA Champions League titles from 1955 to 2018 (Statista, 2019).
Fighting spirit and unity
The club’s cultural DNA is powerful, and the club mirrors a survival force to stand together and to fight back from tough times. This stems from a remarkable collective spirit and family-oriented perspective, which characterize later successful journeys as the spectacular comebacks in the UEFA Champions League Final in 2005 against AC Milan in Istanbul and the above-mentioned comeback against FC Barcelona. The fan culture of Liverpool FC is very passionate and creates an authentic atmosphere around the games. The power of The Kop at Anfield or the support for the club at the international stage but also outside the pitch as when fans disliked the problematic period under the Hicks and Gillett’s ownership symbolize this. Fandom is not staged to artificially back the club. In contrast, it is highly authentic and creates resilient and contagious fan identification and cohesion.
I am not a fan of Liverpool FC and thus not positively biased. Nevertheless, I am a football lover and the club’s fandom fascinates me. I have seen the fantastic support from Liverpool FC’s fans when watching games at Anfield or watching AC Milan’s revenge in the UEFA Champions League Final in Athens in 2007. I also remember visiting Anfield and the club’s academy as part of a football business trip approximately ten years ago where the taxi driver, who took me from Anfield to the academy, said that he would just eat his lunch and wait in the car for me until I was done with my meeting. This tells me the immense devotion to the club from its fans in that the taxi driver just wanted another hour and hence one more close-range piece of the club.
Bringing values to life via authenticity
Dignity, ambition, unity and commitment are not passive words in this sense but values, which Liverpool FC brings to life on a daily basis in interactions with fans and other stakeholders. The slogan You Will Never Walk Alone is a vibrant part of stimulating the history, the traditions, the values and thus the legacy of Liverpool FC, which speaks to fans worldwide. Hence, the authenticity and the validity of history and legacy of a football club rise to the occasion when a club succeeds in fighting back and reproducing similar performances as in earlier trophy years. Despite losing the championship to Manchester City in a Premier League season in which both teams have won a lot of football hearts, Liverpool FC stands in a good position. Klopp’s management has revitalized the club and another UEFA Champions League Final gives hope for another prestigious title to an English football brand, which leads the English competition for these trophies (see above-mentioned infographic) while the rivalry with Manchester United for domestic titles also plays a central role in influencing the club’s brand over the years.
”Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Bill Shankly, former Liverpool FC Manager
Contrasts such as ‘life and death’ represent a ‘framing tool’ that can be applied to highlight the meaning of different extremes such as winning and losing and the intermediates found in between. However, the brand strength of Liverpool FC and its values reflect the importance that if you play with commitment, ambition, dignity and unity and thereby always believe, then there is a powerful force that can elevate people to a higher level. Football becomes like a positive movement. Liverpool FC and its family of fans support many elements around the club whether it is writing support letters to fans and thus members of the Liverpool FC family in need or seeking justice after the Hillsborough incident. Success for Liverpool FC also speaks to the relationship between players and the club and its fans in that success is something that can definitely be bought in the football economy but if you represent Liverpool FC, it feels better that to earn the success and not only to play for the money.
Recognizing the fans in football’s modern money game
Money is important in top football and it boosts the Liverpool FC’s economy to play for the title in the Premier League and to do well in the UEFA Champions League. So, just like former success, star coaches and players add to the club’s contemporary football brand, so do the fact that the club plays in the top of the Premier League (the domestic football league with most commercial power), the global media appeal of the league and the product delivery and entertainment package of the club. Maybe there is a resemblance between what happened against FC Barcelona last week and what happened against AC Milan in 2005 in sticking to the entertaining brand promise J Liverpool FC’s offerings in that regard are also reflected in the club’s global activities, which include preseason tours, academy activities, management education in specific markets and the new ownership in the case of Fenway Sports Group (FSG). Concluding on this article, FSG recognizes the weight of the club’s fans as exemplified by John Henry’s open letter to the fans in 2012 – Liverpool FC is a symbol of its fans and their power in shaping the club, which is the true strength of the club.
 Evidence shows that money (for players) is a big factor that increases the probability for success over a longer period of time.