On a fairly regularly basis, some Reading FC fans good-humouredly mock the club’s advertising attempts. Quite often, they are ribbed for being naff, plastic and a bit daft. Some of their efforts certainly can be cringe-worthy: I personally found the partnership with Marussia to be rather pointless and an empty gesture. Wayward attempts are somewhat inevitable for a large organization running a substantial publicity operation.
Nevertheless, recently I've been appreciating and admiring the efforts of the club to promote the team more. This is mainly because they seem to be explicitly linking the club to the town – which can only be a good thing.
Let me be specific. Allowing West Berkshire Brewery sell ale outside the ground (for example, before the Huddersfield game), promoted a small local business and meant my refreshments on the day felt much more ‘local’. The ‘My Town, My Club’ advertisements dotted around town, and in the train station, are also beneficial in my eyes. They seem like a genuine attempt to associate the players with Reading town, and whilst having a poster of McAnuff diving through the Oracle ‘O’ may be a tad cringey, at least it’s an honest effort. The very slogan ‘My Town, My Club’ embodies everything being a supporter of your local team is about.
Of course, Reading FC has not been completely disconnected from the town up to this moment. Many clubs, including Reading, have been involved in their respective communities for years. Our Chairman Madejski has funded an almost immeasurable number of projects in the town. Moreover, players such as the Hunt brothers were always very active in local charities and schools, as are the current squad. But the focus in our PR does seem to have shifted into playing up this important link.
This all may seem somewhat superficial, but I think it’s important in the wider context of where Reading FC is moving towards. As this ownership madness has rumbled on in the background, with no sign of cessation, we’ve been informed of supposed bidders from all four corners of the globe. Foreign money is not in itself a bad thing, but it does carry with it the risk of a disassociation of the club from the town. Just look at what’s happened to Manchester United. Small, genuine PR efforts, such as those the club have been enacting recently, dilute this. They may, therefore, moderate the globalisation of Reading football club, and it's side-effects.
I’m not naive enough to believe that a couple of posters are enough to stop the club becoming a delocalised business. Nevertheless, as part of other efforts, they are very welcome in my book. I hope that other projects, similar to ‘My Town, My Club’, are enacted in the future. They may remind us all where a football club comes from, and what it’s ultimately for.