Of the earliest, and least recognised, drivers in Celtic being able to secure nine titles in a row was our historic decision, made several years before the first of these titles was won, to break all commercial links with the Ibrox club.
This involved going our own way on sponsorships, merchandising, shirt manufacturing and internet agreements.
Few people have ever considered that it was a masterpiece by Celtic, enabling us to take advantage of our global fan base and reputation across Europe.
It meant that we would forever be judged based on our own identity instead of being perceived as “one head of the coin” with the club across the city and all their associated baggage.
This strengthened us. It weakened them. It allowed us to forge ahead in crafting the Celtic Family concept, and for our PR gurus to market us “a club open to all.” Had we continued to be tarred with the dreaded Old Firm brush that would not have been possible.
It genuinely amazes me how few people today understand that this was a crucial element in Celtic being able to say, in 2012, that we didn’t need Rangers in the league because we did not define our existence by that club.
Once free from the hated Old Firm tag we were absolutely free to leave them behind and we did exactly that.
When the chips were down in 2012, there was a presumption that we would need to work with Ibrox to get Sevco into the top flight; Celtic had no interest in that proposition. We voted no and we made our view on it clear.
We also stated, for the record, that we did not see our future being tied to theirs in any way, shape or form.
That was crucial in terms of how those events panned out.
What was left of Rangers was scattered to the winds.
Sevco was weaker right out of the gate. At that point there was no chance whatsoever of them closing any gap with us in terms of sponsorship or merchandising; this left them easy pickings for a predatory monster like Ashley to come along and snap them up.
To properly understand why we’ve triumphed so completely, you have to understand that Rangers had no greater selling point than being part of the Old Firm. Once we deprived them of that we took away their key marketing strategy. Sevco never stood a chance.
You cannot fully understand our success of the last ten years until you realise that the roots of it stretch back further; all the way to the first decision not to go with a joint shirt sponsor, which people at the time said was going to cost both clubs dearly.
In the end, it only cost one of them and it wasn’t us.
The same choice was apparent in the initial deal which Rangers signed with NTL; we were criticised for not jumping on that with them, but we proved to be far more astute about the multimedia markets than they were.
They got the credit, but we kept our counsel.
When NTL went belly up we smiled and carried on going our own way.
As a club we have risen, even as the first Ibrox operation floundered and the second has struggled to move forward.
It is inconceivable that we would ever have taken a punt on a company like Castore, just as I don’t believe Adidas would have given us a bumper deal if were engaged in joint negotiations with the Ibrox embarrassment.
Going our own way from the Ibrox clubs is one of the best decisions we ever made … and do not underestimate the role it played in our reaching nine in a row.
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