Paul Nixey and Kylie McMullan: Communications lessons from the European Super League that wasn’t

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      By Paul Nixey and Kylie McMullan

      They call it the “beautiful game” but the short-lived and failed launch of the European Super league was pretty ugly. Recently, 12 teams, backed by rich and powerful owners, decided to launch their own league, called the European Super League, to compete with the Champion League. 
      Forty-eight hours later, this idea was dead.

      While the communications surrounding the European Super League announcement were spectacularly bad, there are important lessons to be learned for any organization that is launching something new or making an announcement.

      What's the lesson here? The key communications takeways for all organizations are:

      1. Stakeholder engagement matters.
      The owners of the proposed European Super League took their fans for granted by not engaging in robust stakeholder engagement prior to the announcement. If they had, they would have better understood the passion and personal connection fans have with teams and how the new league could feel like a betrayal. They also didn’t understand how policymakers might react to the public outcry with high profile-politicians (and even Prince William) coming out against it. Stakeholders can be everyone from customers, suppliers, governments, influencers, and employees or any other group that has impact on the success of your organization.
      2. Have a communications plan.
      Bizarrely, there seemed to be no communications plan to speak to media and respond to the public's and policumakers' concerns following the announcement. The European Super League didn’t even have a designated spokesperson. For such a huge announcement, it seems inconceivable that there wouldn’t be a plan to formally roll out the information besides a news release. Once stakeholder engagement is completed, it’s critical to take any learnings from the process and to create a well-structured communications plan with supporting materials designed to communicate the information to all stakeholders and gain buy-in.

      3. Don’t forget internal communications.
      Part of the upset was that team players did interviews and took to social media, telling the public that they found out at the same time as the public through the news and that they didn’t support the decision. By not having an internal rollout and gaining buy-in before an announcement, you risk alienating your key brand ambassadors: your employees.

      4. Have a crisis plan in place. Always.
      No matter what your industry, you need to know what to do if things go wrong. 
      Spending the time to clearly think through the worst-case scenarios and how you would respond to them will help you both understand the risks and be prepared for them.

      It’s not to say that even if the team owners had done all these things the European Super League wouldn’t have failed. A bad idea is still a bad idea no matter how well it's communicated.

      However, by engaging with fans and policy makers early the team owners would have likely have understood the challenges that lay ahead of them instead of being caught off guard by a very public and embarrassing failure.