I recently noticed a communications strategy by a Sports PR agency which has resulted in one of its clients, a professional footballer, rocketing in transfer market value from £3 million to over £30 million. By continuously putting him in the shop window via several opportunities at times when key decision makers will be ready to take up the calls to action, the agency is able to increase the value of its client, also increasing the value of him to them.

Now, while this blog is a football-based topic and the value of the player is also determined by his abilities increasing over this time, the example highlighted provides insight into – and demonstrates the value of – the underlying factors of a successful PR campaign over multiple years.

The professional footballer mentioned is current Norwich City attacking midfielder James Maddison. James has recently held an interview with The Guardian in which he explained how he “likes having pressure on his shoulders.” A flattering piece, the interview goes on to discuss how he has been the star player in an under-achieving side, his recent England U21 call-up and many other positives James has experienced this season.

But why is this relevant to a communications strategy? Well, the positively glowing reference of Maddison by The Guardian was published online on May 3rd and it puts him in the shop window for the forthcoming transfer market, which opens just two weeks after the interview. Two weeks seems a reasonable amount of time for the publication’s 67% 35yrs+, AB-C1 readership demographic, which includes business minded football managers, scouts and other club employees, to read such a promising review and decide if James is the man for them, don’t you think?

But does this communications strategy work? Let me tell you, as a Coventry City fan myself, yes it does. James Maddison started his career at Coventry before signing for Norwich who snapped him up before others could. Perhaps they did their homework on him then as it was about 3 years pre-Guardian article, or perhaps their management read The Independent

I suggest this because in a 2006, Denzel Washington, ‘Deja-Vu’ manner, (great film!) reading the recent Guardian story reminded me of one I read, in late December 2015, in The Independent. “Arsenal and Liverpool in race to sign teenager James Maddison from Coventry City.” Subhead “Maddison is thought to be THE BEST young English talent in League One.”

Like its more recent sister article, The Independent’s story was another glowing report of Maddison’s talents; in a promotion chasing team, best young English talent in the league, and a very smartly positioned suggestion that ‘IF’ his side did get promoted Maddison could fetch a fee of up to £10m! Now there is a call to action if I’ve seen one, buy cheap, buy now, get a good ROI later. In a similar strategy to the more recent Guardian piece, the transfer window opened eight days after The Independent’s article was published and saw Maddison leave Coventry City for Norwich, in the league above at a cost of £3m+.

The PR strategists among you reading this will ultimately see the connection between flattering editorial content in publications football businessmen might be expected to read and the timing of the articles.

I see this communications strategy as genuine PR excellence from Maddison’s ‘technically gifted’ PR ‘playmakers’ who describe themselves under commercial opportunities as being able to “Increase client income, marketing and career prospects” – something this evidence suggests they do very well, along with adding value to their client who can now be considered a significant asset, with rumours he may leave Norwich for the Premier League this summer, commanding a fee of up to TEN TIMES what Norwich paid for him.

*Footnote, just this morning I saw Maddison appear on SoccerAM as a contestant in You Know The Drill, and so the strategy continues…