Falling in love with Leicester

Tue, May 31 2016

I send my heartfelt thanks to Leicester City FC for a memorable PR masterclass.

The Premier League champions won their first-ever top division title unexpectedly. This amazed the world.

Photo: Paul Conneally on Flickr (Creative Commons)


Manager Claudio Ranieri called his team Cinderella: a nobody who deserved to be somebody.

Yet, the PR lesson of this fairytale is not recognised. I will argue that an immersive PR vision is Leicester’s triumph.

This is the first case of immersive PR in football history. It’s a story of hope and love. The team created its own storydoing campaign with PR. It’s not brand storytelling.


While big clubs are dazed by sponsors and media buzz, Leicester players are supported by common people, a cost-effective PR approach.


Sport inspires people. For this reason, it is a universal language. Leicester strengthened the values of football; they believed in the power of football for social change.

The champions of England reawakened the ancient roots of football, which was born in England.

The team cost less than £30m. Its players weren’t popular, nor was the manager.

They embodied St Clare’s idea of poverty: “the privilege of not having any privileges”.

In 2015 the FIFA scandal branded the world’s most popular sport as dishonest.

Surprisingly, the Leicester City victory reminded us of what Pelé described as “a beautiful game”. Leicester’s brand is their unique ‘ginga’, a natural grace.  Star player Riyad Mahrez noted they’re happy.


Immersive PR creates love


The art of PR has created a magic atmosphere. The world has fallen in love with Leicester.

For months, Leicester gained media headlines and front pages around the world.


In a marketing-led era, PR is judged by the strength of relationships, not by the power of money.


Marketing investments are useless in comparison to PR creativity. Marketing cannot buy love through merchandising or viral campaigns. Leicester shows that PR can create it.

Marketing has destroyed football’s ethos: it seems a catwalk for sponsors. It’s just a product.

PR rebuilds the image by unearthing love. As Jamie Vardy revealed, after every goal he simply let his emotions speak. Immersive PR shares intimate emotions; it’s a rare delicacy.

It’s what you can’t see, that makes all the difference. PR makes the invisible, visible.

The incredible produser-generated campaign

Love revitalises a family atmosphere. In the me-media era, a direct relationship with supporters is a fruitful legacy.

The victory parade on the 16th of May, was a vibrant spectacle. Players and supporters were in perfect harmony.

Figures report that almost 250,000 people joined the #havingaparty event. But measuring the value of PR with quantitative metrics is a fraud.


The real victory was that vibrant love flowing through the air. Blue and white T-shirts and flags visually expressed love.


#ForeverFearless seems a slogan. It is a produser-generated campaign.

People fell in love not only with Leicester, they fell in love with football again.

Immersive PR reimagines relationships. Embracing this approach reinvents football.

For Leicester, supporters aren’t customers. They are part of the team.


The PR secrets of the Leicester team


Marketing changed how an athlete is perceived: a poser for brands.

PR reinvented the idea of the athlete. Being themselves was the secret of the Leicester players. They acted as role models. The pizza party with Ranieri showed their genuine nature.

The players acted as one body, all together, sustained by teammates. Ranieri built a team of teamplayers, like Riyad Mahrez. Collaboration restores, in football and PR.

They never gave up. A profound motivation made them feel like champions. They really wanted it. In a season, they changed a likely relegation into a promotion.

What is more, they showed fair-play on the pitch. They respected teammates and rivals. Captain Wes Morgan explained that victory is a special feeling. It’s not a marketing affair.


Ranieri’s pragmatic leadership


Behind this great achievement, we find a happily proud leader. Claudio Ranieri made the impossible possible.  The British media even crowned an Italian coach as an English prince.

Since the beginning he felt that that team could do something. He paid attention to the public.

In a year, he took Leicester to the top. The press conference on the 5th May, explains how. 

To begin with gratitude is an immersive PR technique: “I want to say thank you to the players, the chairman, the staff and the fans. They were amazing.” Sharing an intimate feeling is also an elegant ice-breaking technique.

Turning ideas into actions was the mission. He said “I am the Thinkerman, not Tinkerman”.

He tactically managed relationships with journalists and players: “Of course I told you we were going step by step, but to them I said try we can win.”

Showing, rather than telling is a key in PR. Ranieri showed the unthinkable: “The Manchester City victory can give to my players the feeling to understand they are able to fight with everyone and they can achieve everything.”

Even the Manchester City manager sustained their rival: “If they can continue like that they have a great chance of the title.”

Supporters dreamt a title. The team worked hard to gain it. Ranieri recognised that “They were dreaming. I say dilly ding dilly dong! They wake up and the dream is a reality.”

Ranieri kept everyone’s feet on the ground. Everyone counts. He specified: “I don’t want big names here. My lads are special. We have to bring some good players but who arrives must have the same spirit”. Humility is the PR lesson from Leicester champions.

In an open letter to his players, Ranieri suggested to keep an open heart to run free.


Author: This is an article by Miriam Pelusi. You could write for Behind the Spin too. Find out how here.


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