The Emirates FA Cup is one of the oldest cup competitions in the world. For fans of the top flight teams, the tournament starts at the beginning of January when they play their first games. For lower division teams, however, qualifying starts in August – sometimes before professional clubs have kicked their first ball of the season.

Engagement with the competition becomes more straight forward once the professionals get involved. Teams like Manchester United and Arsenal bring with them a global following, and every game can easily generate an audience of millions.

The issue for the FA team, then, is raising awareness of all the games throughout the season – not just the bigger, or televised, ones. This responsibility obviously falls to the FA’s marketing team.

Lucy Roberts-Hartley and the team – Charlie Weir, Jim Lucas, Sam Colley, and Chris Darnell – work to ensure that both Emirates and the FA Cup get as much as exposure as possible. The Online Rule spoke to Charlie to find out more about this year’s campaign.

What’s going on? And what do they hope to achieve?

The Emirates FA Cup campaign has several main aims:

  • To increase competition awareness from qualifying rounds with the Instagram account’s target audience (16 -24).
  • To increase the social media following for the Emirates FA Cup.
  • To engage club audiences and the wider football community.
  • To showcase partner placement strategically through credible and authentic storytelling.

The team are trying to achieve these by using a combination of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – with the latter’s new Stories feature playing a vital part.

The takeover

The FA are taking the bold step of allowing players from different teams control of the competition’s official Instagram channel throughout the qualifying rounds. Using the platform’s new Stories feature, they’re asking them to chart their preparation for each game and document what a typical game day is like.

“We felt we could share a credible story through the eyes of ‘real’ players at non-league/semi-professional level all the way through to Premiership. We are hoping to illustrate all 13 rounds and really tell the story of the competition through the players’ eyes. Our campaign is based around ‘adventure’, and the story allows fans to join a player’s adventure.”

The idea for the campaign came from watching how brands and football clubs have been using takeovers as part of their day-to-day content, as well as learning from sites such as TheLadBible and Copa 90 who attract the same audience that the FA are aiming for.

Given that Instagram Stories are, more or less, a direct take on Snapchat’s most established feature, it’s surprising to see such a big activation on the platform. There aren’t too many football clubs who have started producing Stories yet as their focus has been firmly on Snapchat. The team’s logic is disarmingly simple: the Emirates FA Cup doesn’t have an official Snapchat account.

One week before the extra-preliminary round – the very first round of this year’s competition – Instagram announced Stories. Seeing as there was already an established Instagram account with an engaged audience, it seemed obvious that this would be the ideal platform for the takeovers.

The plan for the rest of the tournament is simple: “The players at each round of the competition take control to give a first person account of their matchday. This will continue for all 13 rounds, and will culminate in the story continuing all the way to the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley.”

#WembleyToWembley

Non-league Wembley FC were chosen as the side to kick off the takeovers. On 6 August the account was handed over to one of the club’s players to document his day leading up to the game.