There are naysayers who claim that Celtic’s footprint in Asia is still virtually non-existent. They point to the number of footballers from that continent who play regularly in the top five leagues. It’s as if it hasn’t dawned on them that we can’t fail to have a growing presence there, due to having four players from Japan in the first team squad.
Which other club can claim such a thing outside of the country itself? Asia is a huge football market and we finally have a proper toe-hold over there. It is up to the club now to maximise that for all that they are worth. To leverage it into something real.
We have an advantage which, on the surface of it, might not look as if it’s up to much. We have the Celtic shirt. This is something that few people ever properly understand; having one of the more unique strips in all of football means that it stands out in a crowd, as anyone who has ever watched a major sporting event and went “Hoop Spotting” can attest.
That always gives us something to market. With so many players from the Japanese team over here in our first team squad, and playing regularly, we have cracked open the door to that vast audience. Start punting the Celtic strip to them and I suspect we’ll find it steadily grows in popularity over there in part because it’s unique.
The footprint of any club in a foreign land depends on two things; a level of support there and people who are casually interested and grow more interested as time goes by. We do already have a baseline of support in Japan, and always have. Now we have to get the attention of their sporting press in an even bigger way … signing players is only part of it.
Now, today, it’s been announced – in Japan – that we’re heading there for the pre-season next summer. It’s smart. As long as we’ve got automatic Champions League qualification it’s the best business decision that we could possibly have made.
In the winter window, we’re going to increase our profile in Australia, where it’s already sky-high due to Ange. To go to Japan next is brilliant for our players and for our growing body of fans over there. It’s the first giant stride towards trying to gain a foothold in those markets. It will be made immeasurably easier if the likes of Kyogo perform in the Champions League.
The marketing department has been accused, at times, of sleeping at the wheel. There have always been big deals and tie-ins to do which most of us can’t believe haven’t been explored already. We have virtually no major presence in the United States for a start. Even when we had Ki, Naka and flirted briefly with the Chinese market we never properly put down roots in Asia.
Yesterday I did a piece on how Brexit has transformed our transfer strategy, and made us look to markets we might otherwise have ignored or at least placed further down the ladder. Hopefully this is the start of a new trend overall; a genuine effort to market ourselves to the biggest possible, widest possible, audience outside Scotland.
Since the moment Ange took over, a tour of Japan has been a virtual certainty. It must only be the beginning. The headline to this piece is a little tongue in cheek, but it’s not really a joke. We are more than a football club, and we always have been, and we have never – unlike our rivals – sought to restrict ourselves to one insular community.
If we give ourselves a high enough profile, the origin story of this club and the ways in which it is special, will do the rest for us. World domination? Maybe not, but a name that rings out ever louder in those places where we put down a marker.
Our Japanese tour must not be where it ends, but where it starts.
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