I’m not one for flag waving or unnecessary displays of patriotism. In fact, I’m with George Bernard Shaw on this subject, who said, “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.”
Watching the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, however, I was struck by how well Danny Boyle had captured the most essential elements of what I guess we could call “Brand Britain.” The segment with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and Daniel Craig encapsulated three of those elements—monarchy, James Bond and the Union Flag.
There is no doubt that British sports clubs are shifting away from their traditional fan bases and moving towards global ownership and ambitions of becoming global brands. For example, Manchester United is due to float on the New York Stock Exchange on the 10th August and Saracens Rugby Club is South African-owned and has more fans in South Africa than in Britain.
Sports fans are increasingly left with clubs that make a profit and can exist as a business on merchandise sales alone, but which have moved so far away from their roots as working class, Saturday afternoon social events. These quaint notions are now nothing more than black and white photographs and tales told by old men in the corner pub.
Many fans are pragmatic and acknowledge this shift. However, pragmatism belongs in the head and not in the heart, and it may be that Team GB, with its designer-branded kits and £1 million a year sponsorships, can still supply an emotional buy-in, something to truly love and believe; the very thing that the bigger sports clubs are deserting in their pursuit of global dominance and big profits.
It could be that Team GB, Mr. Bean and self-deprecation are where our hearts and souls really lie now. But just when you think that you don’t care, and you can’t be bothered with all that patriotic “stuff and nonsense,” James Bond arrives with Her Majesty and they both leap out of the chopper with Union Flag parachutes, the Bond theme rings out and you pump you fist in the air and shout:
“Yea, take that rest of the world.”
And all of a sudden, for a brief memorable heart swelling, eye-moistening moment, George Bernard Shaw is wrong.
Duncan Caruthers is a business development manager for Siegel+Gale’s London office.