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    Entries in Sports (2)


    STP's Far East Feature: Kung Fu 

    Today I was kicked in the back of the chair by someone here in the Hebe Media office. It made me want to get my Kung Fu on! It also got me thinking of some of the great Kung Fu movies I used to watch as a kid. 

    Kung Fu, played such an important role in the Far East movie movement. In 1949, a of bunch of martial arts academies put together a fund to shoot a film about a legendary hero Wong Fei-Hung with not just acting, but actual kung fu fights in it. Since then, Kung Fu movies grew in popularity. Every decade, there were new Kung Fu stars to take the genre to the next level. The greatest star of all was Bruce Lee, his brand new performing style attracted global attention. After he died, all the studios tried to create a different Kung Fu star to fill his spot, including Jackie Chan. But people weren't buying it, no one can replace Bruce Lee.

    "After Bruce Lee passed away, the whole movie industry went down. Everyone thinks he is the best, no one wanted to watch other Kung Fu movies, I was very disappointed at the time." - Jackie Chan

    Luckily, a few years later they found back into people's hearts: Kung Fu comedy. And finally, Jackie Chan's career took off from this point. In the 80s, Kung Fu became a great support for action films, a few action directors even made it to the Hollywood and are still playing important roles there like Yuen Woo-ping for Matrix, Charlie's Angel, etc. Jet Li became famous afterwards in the 90s by playing the legend Wong Fei-Hung. 

    Some people think that one of the popular themes in Kung Fu movies, you know the one, where the Kung Fu master beats some foreigner, are a comfort for the memories of the Chinese being invaded by foreign intruders. For kids (like me!), Kung Fu characters were just like Superman for us, giving us the feeling of knowing someone out there with great power, is fighting the big man and protecting us. And also it is just a lot of fun to learn from the tv how to Kick people in the face with style ;)


    Leeds United Online: The Story of PPV, Tweets & Social Media

    Recently I have been fascinated by the ongoing story of Leeds United's digital strategy. While I do genuinely applaud the club for finally taking the plunge into social media and the greater content on LUTV, the results have, so far, been a mixed bag to say the least. I am going to try and approach this from a purely professional point of view, which is a challenge as I myself am a life-long Leeds United fan and season ticket holder.


    Lets first of all look at the presence Leeds United have created within social media: Many of the current staff are now on Twitter, this includes the Director of Commercial Activity, Paul Bell, Head of Media Relations, Paul Dews, Yorkshire Radio Presenter, Thom Kirwin, LUTV Presenter, James Stanley. Added to this is the digital radio station owned by the club: Yorkshire Radio.

    On Facebook, the club does not have any kind of significant official presence (although I would hope negotiations and planning for this are going on behind the scenes) but there are numerous unofficial Pages such as 'Leeds United' (70k+ members) which unfortunately is outdated and another 'Leeds United' Page (1.5k) here which seems to be much more interesting and is regularly updated. One of our own pages 'Leeds' is another page which regularly discusses the club.

    Another factor we must also consider here is the massive presence of Leeds United fans in social media. There are numerous forums including WACCOE and Dirty Leeds where thousands of fans come together to talk, debate and update on everything Leeds United related (and much more sometimes!) There are also many fan blogs such as Travels of a Leeds FanThe Beaten Generation and The Scratching Shed.

    In terms of it's own presence Leeds United obviously has its own website which is a very popular site and ranks as one of the most visited football club sites in the UK. There is also LUTV, an online subscription-based 'TV Channel' featuring news, interviews and highlights from the clubs games. The club also owns Yorkshire Radio: a digital and online radio station which features amongst other things: live commentary of Leeds United games.  

    So we can see that the club has a significant online presence and seems to be offering a great amount of content and points of interaction to it's core target: Leeds United fans. Unfortunately the execution, marketing and communication around these channels does not quite match up to the massive potential this presence has.

    There are many examples I could use to demonstrate where things are going wrong but I will pick just one: The recent 'row' surrounding Leeds United's decision to offer a recent friendly on a Pay Per View basis to it's current/potential LUTV subscribers. 

    The Story

    Recently Leeds United decided to broadcast a pre-season friendly on PPV on LUTV. The decision was taken to charge an extra £5 for the game to subscribers who were already paying £4.99 per month or £40 per year for their LUTV subscription. The decision was immediately greeted with anger by Leeds United fans. The fans pointed to the fact that they were already paying a premium price for LUTV (when you consider Man Utd's comparative MUTV Online is £4.50 per month and £45 for the year, it is a fair point) and this content should be included in their package.

    Image courtesy of

    The fans also backed up their angry comments with constructive marketing know-how and an alternative for what the club could have done here. I must agree with the rational behind 'cmac34's' comments about missing an opportunity to attract new customers to LUTV. He suggests the club could have offered the PPV game for £5 to non subscribers as a 'taster' or a way to tempt non-subscribers into signing up to the £5 per month LUTV in the hope of impressing them sufficiently in the first month to then keep that subscription going after the initial month.

    The Response 

    Now whether or not I agree with the decision to charge for pay per view makes no difference to the subsequent fall out from the decision. Leeds United employees were hit with a barrage of questions and comments on Twitter, most noteably the club's commercial director Paul Bell. This is someone who had previously spoken in the form of guest blogs of his eagerness to use social media to engage fans and encourage them to come to the stadium earlier so as to increase their 'spend per head' at Leeds United games. 

    Suddenly as the criticism reigned in, Mr Bell seemed to disappear from Twitter and seemingly ignored fan's reactions and questions about the PPV decision. I personally tweeted the LUTV presenter, James Stanley, who privately messaged me telling me I should contact the club by email. At this point I explained to James that I had offered to meet Mr Bell on numerous occasions to discuss social media and Leeds United over a coffee: his reaction: to 'unfollow' me and with it his private messages disappeared... not really the reaction I had anticipated. 

    The Chairman's Response

    Perhaps the problem and approach can be traced right back to the inner workings of the club. I think the current approach and strategy is perfectly illustrated by this quote from the club's chairman: Ken Bates, when asked about LUTV and PPV (Thank you to @andrewhaigh who transcribed the following from a radio interview with Mr Bates and posted here)

    "Well it's interesting because there's a report in the Daily Mail today which says that 99 million people in the United States now only watch TV on the Internet. I think we always end up doing what the Americans are doing anyway, maybe 5 or 10 years afterwards. I think Internet TV is possibly the way forward and of course we have our own LUTV which has been going on that mode of transmission ever since it started. And certainly we at Elland road have a first class studio which enables us to beam our first class quality pictures. We are in fact examining the possibility of putting out an awful lot of our games, if we don't play competitively, live on LUTV. And we are also negotiating with a view to putting games live when they are not chosen by the central TV companies who have the rights to the Football League. It is in face something we are negotiating now. Once again, if we get it right, I think other clubs will follow our lead so that could be an interesting development. Certainly a very exiting one as far as Leeds United are concerned. And I understand there has been a few people, moaners, there are always a few people moaning about the fact that last night was a pay per view game. But there are PPV games on Sky, and on BT and on Virgin. It costs a lot of money to put a game out live. I think a lot of people were expecting that to be included in their £40 package. That's just totally unrealistic. A lot of people want us to reduce season ticket prices and admission ticket prices but at the same time 'why aren't we buying Messi'. The £40 annual fee and £4.99 a month has been unchanged for at least all the time I have been here in 2005 and I think even before that. This is an advanced warning - as we improve our technology, which costs money to enable to transmit Leeds United around the world of course the cost will go up. A large part of the license fee that the subscribers pay goes to the people who are transmit it and collect the money and also to the football league for the rights to use their technology"


    My Thoughts

    From a social media and brand point of view this really frustrated me. I desperately want to club to excel in this area and the current attitude of completely ignoring comments and quality feedback is depressing. Here you have a brand with a massively loyal 'customer' who wants to engage and help the club. Most brands in any other walk of business would love to have this level of love and input from the very people they are trying to engage.

    The club has an amazing archive of content that could be used to engage and build relationships with their target instead of looking for the short-term financial gain. Perhaps a little market research through social media would increase the club's business intelligence and they would notice people independently talking about what they would pay for LUTV on SKY or how they are having trouble connecting to LUTV online. This is sort of feedback and idea generation not usually easily available to normal brands. 

    LUTV, social media, smart-phones apps, games etc are all things that should be forming part of the club's digital strategy and I repeat what I have said privately to the club: that I am more then willing to sit down for a coffee and throw some ideas around and advise in any way I can.

    There needs to be a new approach and view to digital media at Leeds United both in terms of overall digital strategy and in particular to social media, because if the current tactic is to send one-way messages and then ignore and dismiss the feedback, why bother having a presence in social media?  It seems to go against the idea of being 'social'