A top-ten Premier League football club was able to significantly boost social media marketing performance with a series of well-calibrated tweaks. Alistair Reid explains. 

It is a well-known fact that we can’t continually use the same processes and expect different outcomes. Yet human nature is such that we do still have a tendency to rely on familiar strategies even when we have set our sights on surpassing our current results.

We have seen this time and again, where a few random tweaks in creative delivery and a re-shuffling of content are expected to revitalise brand positioning and awareness.

Ours is an era of continual change, and social campaigns can age almost overnight. Now, more than ever, there is a need to keep re-assessing and re-building an in-depth picture of a brand’s changing landscape.

This was very much brought home to us when we worked with a top ten Premier League football team which felt its social campaigns were not performing to their best potential. The clients had a sense that, despite an abundance of content, they were not maximising conversions to secure important sales on their e-commerce site. They had somehow lost their ‘online magic’.

They had noticed that their other digital marketing channels such as search were performing better and, as a consequence, their social channels generally took the backseat. This is a recurring issue within digital marketing and a sure sign that social strategies need to be adjusted.

Checking the social landscape

We started by taking a deep dive into their ad management programmes to build up an in-depth picture of the best and worst performers, themes and messaging, audience targeting, creative formats and objectives.

Defining success

Sifting through all this data gave us a clearer perspective of what opportunities to improve their ads were being missed. The data also enabled us to analyse what constitutes a successful paid social ad that drives conversation in a particular sector and identify key characteristics of the creative and copy. This is a vital component in any social strategy, as shifting consumer behaviours continually need to be adapted to.

In many instances this can be due to changing circumstances, the current global turmoil due to COVID-19 is a perfect example of the on-going state of flux most sectors are experiencing.


Analysing the unique patterns of the football team’s social ecosystem enabled us to make the necessary strategic changes to all their social assets to ramp up their performance. This meant combing our data, which included competitor analysis, to form a pattern of what makes a successful social ad in their sector.

Interestingly, there were no major changes but rather a series of well calibrated tweaks designed to enhance activity. The deeper we dove into the detail, the richer and more contextual each facet of their new social campaign became.

We took into account everything from colours, styling, font and layout to subject matter, tone and current trending events. We also worked across different sectors to borrow cues that were particularly successful. Finally, we fine-tuned the strategy to ensure the messaging, the audience and the timing all aligned.

Test and test again

As with any strategic change, testing and learning is key. Consumers are continually changing direction, switching their attention and flicking from one behaviour mode to the next. Likewise, algorithms change and therefore ads and social content must change alongside them.

In our first test we found that the new ads generated a 57% lower cost per retail purchase than the best performing business-as-usual (BAU) ads. The optimised creative drove a 95% higher return on ad spend and, despite spending 47% less than BAU activity, we generated just three fewer retail purchases. Finally, our data indicated thousands of dollars in missed revenue due to a lack of optimisation on BAU activity.

In our second test, during which we ran a similar campaign, we drove a 71% lower cost per purchase and attained a 183% higher return on investment.

Ramping it up

Ultimately the changes were almost imperceptible, such as subtle alterations to copy, creative and targeting. The football team’s marketing team was not doing anything wrong. However, the content was made to work harder.

One of our key findings was that the content was not optimised for social advertising due to its being over-shadowed by other digital marketing channels. This kind of vicious cycle might have continued without the audit as there were no glaring reasons to change anything.

This is precisely where brands can miss out on the thriving factor. Without a clear indication that ‘things are going wrong’ there is a tendency to keep repeating the same social processes, which can slowly erode the brand and turn into social anonymity.

Yet an ambitious approach to revisiting and auditing a brand’s social ecosystem can trigger renewed energy and revitalise a brand’s presence. Continually aiming for ‘better’ means refining how a brand’s key assets are projected via all social platforms to achieve genuine standout.

Differentiation is of course a key factor for any brand wishing to thrive, and this has to be continually reflected in every facet of a social strategy. At times this takes bravery since there is comfort in sticking to the familiar content and messaging. Yet playing it safe risks leaving a brand drowned out, indistinct and un-engaging. 

There is authenticity when a brand – regardless of sector – opts to be bold, ambitious and to lead the way. Taking a long, hard look at your current social assets is the best place to start.