In 1992 Sky won, after a cheque signing competition, the rights to show live English Premiership football matches. The deal changed the game and, arguably, British culture forever.
Football tittle-tattle is now, unbelievably, hotter news than serious military dispatches from Afghanistan.
We watch football differently now. Today cameras focus on individual players and the modern soccer superstar or, as they say more poetically in Spain, Galactico has been born.
These superstars have led a dramatic shift in power from the boardroom to the pitch in a way unthinkable before Sky’s revolution.
The top teams know financial success depends on surnames that make grown men go weak at the knees from San Diego to Shanghai. Today there’s more than one ‘I’ in team.
The Corporate Galactico
The growth and impact of social media means a similar swing in corporate communication power is near. The corporate Galactico is coming.
A corporation is the ultimate team – in fact its raison d’etre is to draw an indelible line between an organization and its people. Corporate communication has never cared for individual opinion – it’s the corporate voice, managed by rules and training, that counts. Mavericks need not apply.
But the way we’re using the internet to learn about corporates and their products and services is changing.
Google’s search system obliterated the competition by, put simply, favoring sites with the most reputable links for a specific search term. Its long-term view suits the corporation.
Facebook, along with other social networks, uses a different methodology based on followers (fans) and fast debate. Such measures are, as the Guardian’s Charles Arthur writes, fleeting and random, but powerful and, crucially, not suited to Google’s ranking method. It’s not easy to learn from Google what’s hot on these sites.
Facebook’s search model suits the outspoken expert more than the consensual organization, and will force a re-evaluation of the management of real-time corporate communications. Companies will be forced to seek out glamour signings to lead their frontline communications.
Organisations will start to recruit and empower individuals to join the debate with, by necessity, reduced levels of corporate control. A new breed of communicator, with license to build personal brands on the company buck, will be primed for superstar status as the intelligent, high-value company ‘face’ ready to debate complex, fast-moving industry issues.
It will not be an easy or comfortable corporate experience. Premiership football teams have quickly learned that superstars bring their own problems: new contract demands, transfer requests and drives for autonomy are now a common management issue.
If it goes well, everyone’s a hero, but if relations fail, they’re off to competitor taking their precious followers with them.