The Lions: Sending in the Clown

by Stuart Milne

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Our Scottish PR Agency Takes a Look at the Sporting Behemoth’s Media Match-ups

Lion at Blair Drummond Zoo for use of Scottish PR Agency, Holyrood PR

ALL animals are equal but some are more equal than others. Nowhere is this truer than rugby.

The Springboks from day to day and month to month have supremacy over Los Pumas and Los Lelos (the wolves of Georgia).

Every four years, however, another beast emerges from its den to dominate the sporting landscape and sniff out fresh meat.

The British and Irish Lions tour is a huge deal.

Aside from the historic setting and past glories, the Lions are a media juggernaut.

They sell everything from cars to TV packages and no lack of flights to the southern hemisphere.

A unique selling point and a bigger market than just about any other rugby team makes the scratch team a juicy business prospect.

For Lions fans a test series victory is a sweet and very rare thing and so the ‘committee’, a seemingly ethereal and vague group, pick a coach who they think is up to the job.

This year it was a return for Warren Gatland, winning coach of the previous tour to Australia and so a logical, albeit a reportedly second or third, choice to steer a tricky course.

Whatever you make of Gatland, he has an impressive list of titles to his coaching name.

However, the Lions are not pure and untouchable sporting ideal – as much as many people would like to think they are.

Those aforementioned TVs and Land Rovers fund the animal and so they rely on their image for survival.

2017 has been a tricky tour for the Lions media team and there are lessons to be learned.

1) An Unbalanced Squad

The first, distinctly tartan-tinted, issue of this year’s tour was that there were only two Scottish players in the initial touring squad.

This made a few people quite miffed given a reasonable 6 Nations showing earlier in the year.

Gatland didn’t favour Scots, rightly or wrongly, and this built up ill will north of the border.

The Lions should be picked on merit and to some there were a few too many from here and a few too few from there given recent performances.

Thankfully, the big bucks from sponsorship aren’t driven from our wee country so a bit of Scots griping wasn’t the be all and end all.

Make sure you appreciate the different elements that make your business run smoothly.

Increasingly, organisations find online backlashes bite so spread the love around and make the most of the small victories for your staff be it in print, online or on social media channels.


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2) The Geography 6

At the business end of the tour two more Scots were called up to the squad. So, kilted cheers and highland dancing-style yelps all round?

No.

The coaching staff’s policy of picking the geographically closest was a hammer blow to support from even the closest friends of the Lions.

Remember that policy about meritocracy? Well, seemingly the Lions’ staff didn’t as they winged in 3rd and 4th choice Wales players because they were nearby.

This turned former players, pundits and even Lions Ambassadors against a short-sighted plan.

The lesson here is to appreciate what makes your business special and don’t sacrifice it for a quick buck or to save time.

What makes the Lions special is their exclusive nature as the pinnacle of the game – the coaching staff perhaps should not have been so willing to let the standard slip as it became a real black mark.

3) Drawn and quartered

All this leads to the most important point.

Gatland suffered a bashing from some sources with the New Zealand Herald even branding him a clown and running an unfavourable carton front-page of the coach sporting a less-than-fetching red nose.

When it came to it though, the Lions drew the series.

For a scratch team touring the planet’s greatest rugby stronghold this was chalked up by most as a moral victory.

Gatland entered the final press conference in a clown nose and took the plaudits (albeit mostly from friendly faces) as one of the world’s top coaches.

The Lions brand is a powerful thing and a result against one of the greatest ever sports teams was something to be capitalised on.

If you’re doing something right and get the job done your decisions can ultimately be vindicated.

Make the most of your successes and prove yourself right.


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The Lions will survive and thrive particularly after a couple of roaring performances in rugby’s spiritual home.

However, rugby is about the hard yards and the next tours might prove just as difficult.

Take stock of what you’ve got and what makes your organisation tick and you’ll be in a strong position going forward.

Our Scottish PR Agency Specialise in Getting You to the Top of the Media Scrum

Give your business a sporting chance and get in touch with our team of PR experts.

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