Havre Athletic Club & a curated branding strategy

Tristan Canart

March 25, 2023

HAC case study

Over the last decade, the historical Havre Athletic Club has been in France’s second division, and haven’t achieved Ligue 1 status since 2009. However, over the past couple months of 2023, the Normandy-based club has been on a winning streak that has been underpinned by an incredible digital strategy. While some may view the Ciel et Marines’ momentum as a surprise, it is actually the result of a carefully planned and executed strategy that involves everyone in the club - from management to players, academy staff, and marketing personnel - and highly efficient workflows within the organisation - including switching to ScorePlay to maximise the impact of their visual content with an AI-powered digital asset manager.

The long-lasting legacy of the “Ciel et Marines”

Football is widely recognised as having originated in England before being introduced to the rest of Europe but many are unaware that football actually first set foot in the city of Le Havre before spreading throughout France. Havre Athletic Club is said to be the very first football club established in France, founded in 1872, and paving the way for the long-standing football tradition in the country. The English heritage of HAC is actually reflected in the club’s crest with its colours, Ciel et Marine - Sky blue and Navy blue - representing the colours of Oxford and Cambridge, whose students created the club as they moved from England to Le Havre.

As pioneers in France, HAC quickly managed to build a consistent structure and team in a new sport, allowing them to win two French championships in 1899 and 1900. After several decades, the 50s finally brought HAC the joy of high-level performances again. Third in the 1950/51 French championship, the Ciel et Marine made history by becoming the first second division team to win the French Cup in 1959 (Guingamp repeated this achievement in 2009). Since then, HAC have mostly competed in secondary divisions of French football. But as the current season progresses, and HAC keeps dominating Ligue 2, fans are starting to believe that the club has a real chance to come back to the place the place where it deserves to be.

A perfectly suited branding strategy

No organisation can thrive without enhancing its brand and nurturing its fan base. In recent years, HAC has delivered exceptional and exclusive visual narratives to its fans. Their Instagram profile is a testament to this approach, as HAC's team has chosen to showcase distinctive and captivating images that are instantly identifiable with the club's brand. Instead of sharing ordinary content like halftime scores or brief updates, HAC has curated a collection of photos with a distinct saturation, colour palette, and contrast setting that is unique to the club. Even the video thumbnails are meticulously selected to align with the club's visual identity. Their focus on brand consistency matches their unwavering strategy to provide their fans with content they want to see. If we take a closer look at their profile’s ‘highlights’ we notice how consistent the club is in its branding. The visual content is thoughtfully curated to accentuate the unique colours of the club and reinforce its brand identity.

HAC's Instagram Profile

Again, this strategy deployed over the past months and years has led to tremendous results. After conducting an analysis of French clubs' social media accounts, it is evident that HAC has outperformed its competitors on all marketing metrics. In the last three months alone, HAC's Instagram followers have grown by an impressive 12.83%, while the average for French clubs is around 4.7%. Additionally, the number of incremental followers gained over the past three months is 4.3 times higher than the previous three months, indicating that HAC has far exceeded its competitors in online fan acquisition. Not only has HAC performed exceptionally well in quantity, but also in quality. The total number of likes and comments on HAC's account has increased by a staggering 293% in the past three months, indicating that fan engagement is skyrocketing. Moreover, the total number of impressions on their posts has grown by 285%, indicating a massive increase in brand reach that the club deserves recognition for.

If the numbers aren't enough to convince you of HAC's impressive visual storytelling, just take a look at their mind-blowing kit release video, which speaks for itself, and was facilitated by ScorePlay’s DRM features.

Stade Océane: where HAC will continue to make history

As said before, the current rise of HAC is the result of a carefully designed strategy. A key component of this strategy was the construction of a stadium that the club could call home. Recognising the shortcomings of the Jules Deschaseaux stadium - its limited capacity, accessibility issues, and overall dilapidation - the club launched the Stade Océane project in 2004. The aim was to create a modern, state-of-the-art stadium that could accommodate over 25,000 fans and host top-level football matches. The stadium's stunning circular cover, made of bright blue acrylic, reflects the colour of the sea and the club's visual identity. The management provided HAC with the necessary infrastructure to compete against the biggest teams in France, even gaining praise from Brazil’s National Team manager. HAC also embarked on a revenue-driven strategic move to open a hotel within the Stade Océane in September 2018. The "1872 Stadium Hotel" boasts twenty rooms, including two deluxe dressing-room themed suites.

ScorePlay, the missing piece of the puzzle

As their sports performance kept improving and management upgraded their digital strategy, the only missing piece alongside the performance on the pitch, was a tool to automate and streamline their media workflow, allowing them to concentrate fully on brand empowerment. In June 2022, they started using ScorePlay, the all-in-one media hub that suited every problem and bottleneck they had. Since then, they have uploaded 10,000+ media assets and completed over 1,500+ downloads. Those assets were perfectly classified and organised on the platform with our events classification, rather than utilising the traditional folder-based approach offered by outdated systems like Dropbox or PhotoShelter. This means that events, such as matches, training sessions, and press conferences are automatically generated, whether uploaded manually or via FTP.

ScorePlay has successfully connected all the key players in HAC's media strategy. The phone app currently hosts 63 users, including 32 active athlete users. The Athlete App was designed to make sharing photos and content with athletes as simple as possible. With a simple QR code, login and onboarding can be done in seconds, and athletes are promptly notified when their photos are available. Prior to adopting ScorePlay, managing the sheer quantity of photos and videos was a gruelling task, but thanks to our AI tagging system, HAC's communication teams were able to save hundreds of hours of time. In addition, our effortless distribution feature has enabled the club to fully leverage their best ambassadors: the players. ScorePlay offered them an all-in-one solution that could be implemented and taken advantage of across the organisation and across departments.

Start your free trial today to see how you can optimise your media collaboration workflows and media asset management.

Photo credit: HAC
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