Elland Road Front

The 03/04 Premier League season saw Leeds United relegated to the Championship. 13 years later – under the helm of former Swansea player and manager, Garry Monk – Leeds were battling to get back into the top tier of English football.

It was a fairytale story in the making. A knight in shining armour, seemingly sent to us by the footballing Gods to deliver us back to the Premier League action we’ve been exiled from for so long. It was hard not to get carried away. However, reality doesn’t adhere to the rules of folklore and quickly brought us back down to Earth.

I won’t say I wasn’t disappointed to finish 7th – because I was – but, I was far more disappointed to learn Mr Monk had handed in his resignation.

Why, Garry?

Anyway, in a situation surrounded by anger and bitterness, it’s easy to get caught up in the ifs and buts of what could have been. Instead, I’ve chosen to look towards 4  marketing lessons inspired from Leeds’ most successful (and enjoyable) season in recent years.


This post is – as you may have guessed – about Leeds United, a team you may not like, perhaps even detest. (Football has a tendency to ignite passions within people, transforming them from fully grown, civilised adults into foul-mouthed baboons).

I get it.

But I implore you to put your tribal allegiances to the side – even if only for a moment – to objectively consider the messages within this piece of writing and how they may benefit you.

Also, please don’t swear at me in the comments.

Build your brand

From his first day on the job, Garry Monk set out to build his brand of football managerialism within the club.

As a manager, a leader and as a person he had his own value system.

These values were key to his success – however, it didn’t happen overnight.

Monk endured a rocky start, losing his first match in charge against Queens Park Rangers 3-0 – but, by November 2016, Leeds were in a playoff position, where they remained until May.

His success was a result of embedding his values into the club’s players and staff to create a driven, organised team that drove results: and most importantly won the fans over.

What you can learn:

Developing a strong foundation for your brand is important. This is what potential customers will come to recognise when it’s time to make a purchase.

By augmenting your brand with distinctive values from the beginning; this will allow you identify your brand domain, build a product based on core characteristics, develop your brand’s personality and position yourself in the marketplace in a way that distinguishes you from the competition.

Discover Your Brand Values
Do you know yours?

If you manage your brand in accordance with your value structure – you will organically see a growth in loyalty and sales as customers increasingly put their trust in what you have to offer.

But don’t expect results overnight, it’s a process that takes time and commitment.

Given a second season under Monk, who knows what Leeds could have achieved…

Diversity, not dependency

Chris Wood: strong on the ball, ability to find space, clinical from 6 yards out, 30 goals in all competitions, and nominated for EFL Championship Player of the Year. What a player!

However, without an in-form back up producing results, Leeds were reliant on a 4-2-3-1 formation that relied heavily on the New Zealand striker. Out of 50 league goals across the season, 27 came directly from Chris Wood. That’s 44%!

Chris Wood's 16/17 EFL Championship league goals for Leeds United stand at 27 of all 61 goals scored (44%).
(Source, via whoscored.com)

It’s impressive, but football is a team game and being able to consistently produce goals from other areas of the pitch is crucial to maintaining the top positions in the table.

In games where he wasn’t playing, or when teams successfully kept him subdued are the games Leeds tended to struggle.

What you can learn:

Your marketing strategy can’t afford to focus on a single channel.

The rise of the Internet has opened the door to many opportunities for marketers to engage with bigger audiences, and this should be taken advantage of.

For instance, if you use Twitter as a platform, and you amass a large following through it, that’s great. Keep going. However, if you only use Twitter, and don’t look towards the possibilities of expanding your audience and enhancing customer experience through varied content on other social media sites – like Instagram’s photo sharing, or Facebook’s live video streaming – then you may not be maximising your brand’s full potential.

Now, I’m not saying you need to be on every social media platform – not at all.

What I’m saying, is carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of different sites to determine their usefulness, and implementing the most suitable ones into your marketing campaign is a good way to get more out of your brand.

Using a few channels effectively is better than using all of them poorly.

The Summer transfer market should focus on diversifying Leeds’ attacking options.

Budgets shouldn’t be restrictions

The club’s former owner, Massimo Cellino, wasn’t a big spender when it came to the transfer market. Prudent, I’d say. 

Monk, however, was able to make 10 signings when he arrived at Leeds, spending only £2.85m overall. Fellow Championship club, Aston Villa, spent £39.4m during the same time. 

Leeds United 16/17 Club Spending, Leeds £2.85m, Aston Villa £39.4m
(Source, via HITC)

Five players; Sacko, Hernandez, Pedraza, Bartley and Jansson were all secured on loan. First choice goalkeeper – and often game-saver – Rob Green, was signed on a free transfer since his contract at QPR had expired. Wood was already a part of the team.

Monk made smart signings, seeing potential in 2nd team players and working to get the best out of them individually, and as a team.

The results speak for themselves, Leeds found themselves 8 places up the table from the previous year (in 7th) and 6 places above Aston Villa!

What you can learn:

The size of the budget doesn’t determine the quality of the campaign.

Seeing big brands spending millions on single campaigns creates the illusion that you need a load of cash to do it properly. 

It’s just not true.

Good results are driven by quality and hard work.

Here are a few ideas of what you can do on a small budget:

  • Publish great content
  • Leverage social media: ask questions, listen to the feedback, network
  • Create striking business cards, compelling brochures and informative infographics
  • Hold online contests
  • Use Reddit for market research.

There are plenty of free tools available online to help you do this too!

Don’t believe me?

I already wrote an article you may find useful, covering a few tools you can use to create free, high-quality content.

Better get them loanees signed up, sharpish.

Set targets, be bold

In the final press conference of the season, Monk said, in pre-season, he sat his squad down and discussed what they wanted out of this season.

’75 points’, they said.

‘Very ambitious’, he said.

If he’d publicly said that back in August, I’d have laughed. Now it’s over, I feel like it should have been more. (Source)

What you can learn:

I think the message here is clear and can be applied to whatever you set out to accomplish.

Don’t be afraid to set the bar high; work hard to create high-quality content, generate leads, boost traffic, engage with customers, go for goal, and you might just surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

Automatic promotion next season?

You never know…

What team do you support? How have they inspired you? Tell me…

…unless you’re Middlesbrough.

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