In the world of international soccer, AS Roma looms large. As the only team in Rome that matters (Laziale need not apply), they bring a passionate fanbase and a skilled squad to the pitch year in and year out. With a storied history, you’d think their social media presence would operate under an equally esteemed brand voice.
But that’s where you’d be wrong.
Because instead of creating a professional announcement filled with pomp and circumstance for the signing of a new player a few summers ago, they did this:
A poorly Photoshopped photo of their new midfielder “wearing” their jersey. Unpolished, unfinished and unprofessional.
The soccer world loved it.
When it comes to the AS Roma Twitter account, the idea of being buttoned up and stately was kicked out of play back in 2015 when they hired Paul Rogers to direct their digital media. All of a sudden, traditional player announcements were replaced with shoddy Photoshops, parody highlight videos and IKEA spoofs.
While this might seem a bit scattered, the intentionally erratic behavior is all part of the plan. According to Rogers, “People in the media called our approach ‘weird’ and ‘quirky,’ but in reality, we were just having fun.”
And that right there is the key—fun.
Because while everyone else is trying to portray a pristine, polished image, Rogers and his team take the approach that social media shouldn’t be perfect—it should be fun. And goofy. And risky. And a place to try new things.
It’s great that a big brand from a traditional country has been able to harness the power of social media and not be bound by the chains of “brand standards.” For Roma, social media has been a place to experiment. And having a plan for generating more content at a lower production value has paid off. It shows that with the right plan, the right audience and a little extra freedom, you can strike content gold and win over an audience.
The eight-person social team at AS Roma has certainly bought into this strategy of breaking with the traditional high-production-value posts and embracing fun, cheeky content. Over the past three years, they’ve increased their social media following by 300%, from 5 million to 15 million. Not too shabby. That’s what happens when your “number-one aim on social media is to engage with our fans and followers and make them feel closer to the club.”
It’s ideals like this that lead to novel efforts to share the spotlight. For instance, during the 2018 World Cup, in which Italy was not competing, Roma adopted Nigeria as its own and rooted for them the entire tournament. When Roma is off for a weekend, they’ll back a small, relatively unknown team, like they did with Saint Anthony’s Football Club, a junior Scottish team. In both instances, Roma created an experience for both teams (and their fans) to participate in something bigger and more communal. It’s a party approach that it will send out invitations to anyone at any time.
With #ASRoma not playing this weekend, we’re supporting the mighty @SaintAnthonysFC from Glasgow, Scotland on #NonLeagueDay as they take on @JohnstoneBurgh1 #ForzaTheAnts #ItsAnAntsThing#montheants pic.twitter.com/ri5mpTHu2c— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) October 13, 2018
Not to be overlooked, brands like Wendy’s, Away and Pop-Tarts have figured out their own ways to have fun on social. But when it comes to soccer, AS Roma is top shelf. Dollars and cents come from a loyal fanbase, and that’s exactly what the AS Roma social team is building. By sticking to the game plan, building a trustworthy team and taking risks, this Italian squad has changed the way professional clubs view social media.
Even for corporate brands, the lesson is to find the right team and empower them to do their thing. Social media shouldn’t just be a forum for press releases and business communications, and it’s worth it to go off-book. According to Rogers, “This is supposed to be fun and entertaining. The idea is to keep evolving and never stand still. The last thing in the world we want to be is boring.”
Because when the polished plays and gritty games are done, don’t we all just want to have fun?
Sempre Forza Roma!
Nick’s Italian roots run deep! Pizza always wins, but one of his favorite meals of all time was carbonara at il duca in Trastevere (a neighborhood in Rome that is known for its food and Roma fans).