17.2 Co-creation: Soccer and cars…

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    On the website Myfootballclub, English football fans co-created the exploitation of a football (soccer) club. Tens of thousands of donations amounted to a sizable pot of money, which was used to buy an actual football club: FC Ebbsfleet. These few thousand fans are involved with the daily dealings of the club, like any fan is, with the difference that they are also co-owners. This is, of course, a disaster for the old management thinker, because 6,000 opinions about the line up for Sunday seem to be unworkable. But the principle is that majority rules. This goes for all the important decisions, even financial ones. These decisions are not necessarily better or worse than when they are taken by big shots. What is great is that the club has an army of thousands of scouts at its disposal, who are on the lookout for talent all over the UK free of charge. A normal company could never afford so many scouts! The results are evident: slowly but surely, the club is climbing up from the lower regions of the leagues. On the website, I read: “In February 2008, the members purchased the football club for £600,000. Just three months later, Ebbsfleet United won the FA Trophy at Wembley – the club’s greatest achievement in a history that dates back to 1890.” So, they’re definitely on the right track!

    However, in the end, the Club management, embracing the input of money but not so much embracing the influence and social engagement of the fans, didn’t commit itself really to this new form of running the show. Fans noticed and disappeared. “I think we failed to give many members the feeling of ownership and closeness to the club they had hoped for,” admitted MyFC’s founder, Will Brooks. So, it was a great experiment, but being authentic about “sharing” ownership is easier said than done. In 2013, only about 1,000 fans out of the original 30,000 are left, and FC Ebbsfleet is back at square one.

    Ford, however, had a co-creation campaign which was very successful:

    In April 2009, Ford shipped 100 new Fiestas from Europe to the US, starting the campaign to introduce this model update to the American market. These cars were made available for free to a group of predominantly young motorists, selected for their affinity for social media, for a period of six months. Ford encouraged these test pilots, who were named agents, to share their driving experiences online. Ford cleverly approached this by giving the agents a mission every month. These assignments did not just relate to driving the car, but more to the lifestyle of these testers. There were missions like “show your skills on a skateboard,” or “make a video with puppies.” The agents reported their mission progress on blogs, Twitter, and photo and video sharing websites. Within six months, this resulted in over 4.3 million YouTube views, over 540,000 photos of the car were viewed via Flickr, and there were over 3 million mentions on Twitter. To thank the agents for their work, a Fiesta Movement Celebration Event was held in Hollywood on December 1st. Via www.fiestamovement.com, people could vote for their favorite agent. This was, of course, a clever move, because these agents used their entire networks to win votes. Which resulted in more brand recognition for the Ford Fiesta. The promo website showed rankings, and every test driver had their own profile page with a link to their Twitter account, YouTube page, or (personal) blog. Furthermore, the website showed a live feed of all activities on different channels of the agents. The model was introduced to the market in the summer of 2010. Ford created 60% brand awareness for a product update that still had to be introduced, and that is, of course, an enormous success.

    In an interview, Jim Farly, the Vice President of Global Marketing at Ford says: “If you would have told me that we would have 100 vehicles in the US and we would have 60% brand awareness in the segment, I would have said there is no possible way. To get 60% awareness in traditional media, it costs somewhere north of $50 million. The marketing world has changed dramatically both for Ford and for all major corporations in the past year. Online has become mass media. A Yahoo or Google page takeover actually gets more eyeballs than a network TV commercial now. That hasn’t happened before. The importance of communicating through online social media platforms as well as through public relations has become far more important because of the evolution of technology.”

    Presently the website and community around the Fiesta is still active and used for campaigning around this model.

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