Ravi Puskur explains how pop-culture references help FC Goa reach newer audiences on social media

Ravi Puskar FC Goa Strategy

Social Samosa talks to Ravi Puskur, Vice President – Strategy, FC Goa to bring you a slice of action from the team’s Social Media Pavillion.

With the pandemic taking away stadium experiences, FC Goa had to strengthen its social media presence and strategy to ensure that fans don’t miss out on the action. It has been a consistent effort towards focussing on present audiences and reaching newer ones, expanding the scope to include non-fans. To this extent, they have been experimenting with pop-culture references dipped in the hues of all things football. Ravi Puskur, Vice President – Strategy, FC Goa tells us more.

Could you briefly tell us about the journey of FC Goa as a sports brand?

We’ve always been a football first brand for our fans — our internal ethos, our attacking gameplay, building our player profiles, the way we recruit players, how we are building our grassroots programme through the Forca Goa Foundation — make the brand story. Simple and consistent messaging around these aspects has been our endeavour. Especially since there is a socio-cultural legacy of football in the state. Now, our endeavour is to be the voice for Indian football nationally and increase the reach beyond our loyalists.

FC Goa has a narrative-driven approach on social media — could you tell us a bit more about it?

There was a shift in the way we drive communication this summer and it was a conscious decision to do so. We wanted to be integrated into the conversations of the regular day Indian — this includes both our fans and beyond. 

We were able to find intersections between pop-culture, lifestyle — movies, shows, music, dance, iconic characters in mass media, past, present and upcoming — and football (after all, football is at the heart of it all) as pegs for our storytelling and moment marketing capsules.

And these, in turn, have yielded high views and shares, laughter and conversation and notably, brought, in several cases, new audiences and new perspectives to weigh in on a sport that can often seem inaccessible/elusive to a “non-fan”.

In August and September, we hit the highest ever non-follower accounts on Instagram at 750k and on Twitter, 37.5k profile visits, the highest there ever.

Not to mention, created a new sense about what Goa represents beyond the usual — a hope for Indian football.

What are FC Goa’s objectives from social media promotion?

Everyone loves Goa. And Goa loves football. This is none the more evident than on our social media which has always celebrated its players, coaches, and attacking/ assertive brand of gameplay.

Now, we’ve upped the ante in as far as creating conversations beyond the realm of pure football, technicalities, and football fans is concerned. All in a bid to create mass appeal for a sport that more than deserves its due, not just in Goa where it is already a homegrown, culturally embedded sport, but in India at large where it needs to be platformed and represented as a viable prospect on the international stage. 

We take the responsibility very seriously. Through the course of the coming months, we will showcase the various projects we have undertaken in the education, grassroots, and en masse, digitally and offline, state infrastructure, scaling our fan engagement to include non-fans experientially and in the partnerships space. 

What’s your strategy behind promoting fan art and interactions? How does it help FC Goa?

Football is woven into the socio-cultural ecosystem in Goa.  And that means so is FC Goa. Football is our institutional prerogative and we are looking to make it a prerogative for everyone through our inclusive and forward-thinking approach, which includes promotion of fan art and building of healthy interaction with the fans and the community.

Could you tell us a bit about your real-time social media promotions when a match is on? 

It’s a very different scenario when it comes to social media behaviour on match days and especially when the match is on. Our performances on the pitch have a large impact emotionally on the community. They are ardent football fans and look up to FC Goa to deliver on that passion. 

On matchdays, it’s more ‘in your face’ promotions with fans on the lookout for regular updates. Even then we have been able to intersect the pop-cultural references and use wordplay to keep the consistency in our communication going and embed the themes deeply. A case in point is our Durand Cup Heist campaign where our use of the theme took over match proceedings with commentators referencing it in our opening game, the Durand Cup handle referencing it even during matches to post Durand cup coverage when we’ve pulled off a “heist” in terms of new player signings!

Also Read: 5 essential tips to engage football fans on social media

How do you plan to increase the reach and fan following?

Our whole new shift towards a narrative-based approach was based on exactly that — to increase our reach and fan following. That is exactly what we are experiencing. What this approach does is get us deeply entrenched in the conversations of football fans and beyond. 

We are speaking the language of the new generation while keeping football at the heart of it. We are not only looking to get our existing fans to connect with us on the social media platforms but also looking to onboard new fans.

Through our language, or campaigns and projects we want to make a real impact, a real change. We are looking to build engagement, loyalty, use our strategy to showcase the impact we are making, and even enlist the fans in shaping this vision for football.

Comment on sports marketing trends that are noticeable in the current environment. Tell us a bit about football content consumption trends in India? How were they impacted during the pandemic?

Social media, like everywhere else, has played the role of a catalyst in the Indian football ecosystem — helping the fans and the clubs find a voice and way to connect like never before. This has led to a whole shift in the footballing culture in the country.

In the yesteryears, the focus of the Indian footballing ecosystem was concentrated on only a few pockets where football reigns supreme, e.g. Kolkata, North-East India, Goa, etc. While those pockets still have a large influence, I believe that the conversation now encompasses a much wider group of fans. 

These fans have become a huge source of content for the sport. They are responsible for a number of dedicated social media pages, podcasts, YouTube shows and in some instances, have led to media houses being established. 

The pandemic had a huge impact on everything and football was no exception. Firstly, with the ISL being played behind closed doors and in a biosecure bubble it has brought upon a challenge for us to find new and innovative ways to keep the fans engaged and make them feel part of the ecosystem. 

This has led to clubs exploring new avenues. Things like IG Lives, Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse Rooms, and online interactions have become the norm of nearly everyone’s social media plans.

Football loving audiences are considered sticky. How do you plan to leverage them?

Rightly said, football fans certainly have a lot more ‘stickiness’ as you put it. It certainly is an aspect that all clubs should look to leverage. It’s very important to understand your fans and build lasting relationships with them. And that’s the reason we want to be part of the conversation in their lives.   

Knowing your fans and building binding relationships with them is the first and foremost thing to do — to see if there are any patterns, any traits that underline them and capture them in measurable data points. And when you have things that one can put a finger on, it becomes easier for everyone to operate. 

We are then able to make better decisions, can pitch better to our sponsors and of course serve our fans better.