Sunday, 22 June 2008

White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' has become the unofficial Euro 2008 anthem, giving some good lessons in viral marketing!

The White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' has become the theme tune to Euro 2008. Originally recorded in 2003, Seven Nation Army has become the fans favourite ahead of the official songs 'Can You Hear Me?' by Enrique Iglesias and 'Feel The Rush' by Shaggy. The way in which it has become an unofficial Euro 2008 anthem is a practical illustration in how word of mouth / viral activity develops.

According to Reuters the song gained popularity in Italy at club level before Italian fans adopted it for the national team with their own lyrics "Cam-pioni-del-Mon-do" (world champions). The White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army's popularity has now spread further with it being played across Austria and Switzerland, with many different fans singing along to the guitar bit! (It is even now played as the teams run out at every match.)

This is not the first time that fans have ignored the official song in preference of an alternative, but the ways in which songs get adopted as football anthems are varied.

In 1990 Nessun Dorma became an unofficial theme tune to the World Cup Italia 90. Pavorotti appeared all over Italy and Nessun Dorma became the eternal soundtrack to Gazza's semi-final tears after the BBC used it extensively in their World Cup coverage.

However, since New Orders magnificent 'World in Motion' in 1990, the official English FA song has been largely ignored by fans:

1996 - Simply Reds official song 'We're In This Together' was superceded by Baddiel & Skinners 'Three Lions' (Football's Coming Home).
1998 - the official FA song '(How Does it Feel to Be) On Top of the World' by England United (Spice Girls, Lightning Seeds, Echo and the Bunnymen) was snubbed by fans in favour of Fat Les 'Vindaloo' and an updated version of Three Lions (Three Lions charted again in 2002 and has now sold in excess of 1.4 million copies!)
2006 - Embrace's 'World At Your Feet' also failed to capture the public imagination.

Furthermore a number of the official FIFA / UEFA songs have failed to hit the mark. Does anyone remember:

- Ricky Martin 'Cup Of Life' for World Cup 1998?

- Anastacia 'Boom' for World Cup 2002?

- Herbert Grönemeyer 'Celebrate The Day' in 2006?

Nelly Furtado's official song 'Forca' was popular at Euro 2004 though, whilst other unofficial tracks like Dario G 'Carnaval de Paris' and Elvis / JXL 'A Little Less Conversation' have been picked up by football fans across Europe after featuring in topical TV adverts (Dario G = Ford, Elvis = Nike).

The recipe for success for a football anthem is therefore similar to the recipe needed for a successful viral:

1) Just because something is well produced does not mean it will be successful (Simply Red vs Three Lions) - it's the book, not the cover.

2) Understand your audience and give them what they want. For football songs crowds want something rousing that they can sing along to - The White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' is more appealing than Shaggy or Enrique.

3) Make it easy for your audience to mashup and remix. Different fans respond in different ways to Seven Nation Army. Some just shout along with the guitar, others, like the Italians, add their own lyrics. If you make it easy for people to adapt things for their own needs it is more likely that your offering will be embraced.

4) Bottom up, not top down. Seven Nation Army's success in Switzerland / Austria started with the fans before being picked up by mainstream channels. It's the opposite to an official single release that then filters down. This is how all good viral activity should work - start small by seeding to key audiences and then watch as the message is propagated and eventually picked up by mass media.

5) Be distinctive and recognisable. Pre-1990 there was only one England world cup song, in 1998 there were 16 World Cup related releases and even more at later tournaments. To stand out it is important not just to be good, but to be distinctive and memorable too. Again this is important for a successful viral, producing something is the easy part, getting it to cut through is the hard bit.

6) Credibility in the space you want to occupy is more likely to result in success. New Order, Keith Allen / Fat Les and Baddiel & Skinner had a strong football heritage that translated into a successful football song. Ricky Martin / Spice Girls / Embrace were not able to deliver to the same extent, partly because they do not have the same involvement in the game (Posh Spice excepted). Jumping on a bandwagon vs furthering a long standing relationship.

The adoption of the White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' at Euro 2008 (and the success / failure of previous official songs) therefore gives a good illustration of how viral / word of mouth activity should be successfully implemented - and if the Italians win the tournament I'm sure they could re-write the lyrics again - "Cam-pioni-del-Eur-ope"?

Other posts about Euro 2008:

3D Euro 2008 stadiums in Google Earth:

5 examples of digital initiatives around Euro 2008:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its not just at Euro 2008 that the White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' has been popular. Liverpool fans have also been singing the name Javier Masherano to the 'Seven Nation Army' tune.