It's Not Coming Home


It's Not Coming Home

Image by FIFA

By Mayfield UK, Friday 13th July 2018

Title: You only sing when you’re winning
Subtitle: Or, what Baddiel and Skinner can teach you about your business

Chin up. Fact is, you lose more than you win.

Brazil are the most successful team in World Cup history. Not only have they won the World Cup five times, they’re also the only team to have appeared in all 21 tournaments.

Five wins from 21. That leaves Brazil with a win/loss ratio of less than one in four.

The last time Brazil won the World Cup? 2002. Those born that day were too busy with their GCSEs this summer to watch Brazil’s defeat to Belgium. And while they won’t be old enough to remember Ronaldo’s second-half brace in the 2002 final, they’ll certainly remember the verde-amerela getting walloped 7-1 in 2014.

So, cheer up England fans. When you look at the bigger picture, everyone’s a loser.

Which brings us to Three Lions.

The FA didn’t like Three Lions when they first heard it. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say they didn’t get it.   
Before Three Lions football anthems were either sentimental (1970’s Back Home) or triumphalist (1988’s All the Way. Yeah, we don’t remember how that one goes either.).

Before Three Lions, the best World Cup song was New Order’s World in Motion, a song whose lyrics are so vague that only John Barnes’ rap really qualifies it as a football song.*
So, what were the FA actually hoping for? Probably something like the track they commissioned for the 1998 World Cup: (How Does It Feel to Be) On Top of the World** (hyperlink: Sample lyrics:

“Goals are flying in, we've made the news
Cos we were born to win, we can't lose”

(England lost to Argentina in the Round of 16. David Beckham got himself sent off in that one.)

Or Embrace’s World at Your Feet (hyperlink:, a slice of generic indie rock commissioned for 2006. The song’s chorus features the lyrics:

“With the world at your feet
There's no one you can't beat”

(England were beaten by Portugal in the quarter finals)

Lyrically, where On Top of the World and World at Your Feet are unabashedly upbeat; Three Lions is bittersweet, even melancholy:

“Everyone seems to know the score
They’ve seen it all before
They just know, they’re so sure
That England’s going to throw it away…”

This song became an unofficial national anthem. Why?

From a marketing perspective, Broudie, Baddiel and Skinner understood the mindset of the football supporting public better than the FA. Three Lions is the anthem of a team with a history of underachievement. A team who have only brought the World Cup home once (and even then thanks to a dodgy linesman).

“Thirty years of hurt
Never stopped me dreaming”

For a sports fan, following a team is about being part of a shared narrative. As time passes,  England’s semi-final defeat to Croatia will enter fan folklore, alongside Gazza’s tears and the Hand of G-d. Fandom isn’t just about celebrating when things go well, it’s about sharing the lows and hoping for better next time.***

There’s a lesson for businesses here. Sometimes it pays to look outside your bubble and ask how your customers really see you.

When reaching out to clients, it’s vital to have a sense of their expectations. When it comes to pitching and bidding, understanding your business and your target audience can be the difference between a Three Lions and a World At Your Feet.

*Barnes’ rap concludes with the words ‘we ain’t no hooligans/this ain’t no football song‘. A metaphysical conundrum, we think you’ll agree.
**Recorded by ‘England United’: A super-group comprising Echo and the Bunnymen, Ocean Colour Scene and the Spice Girls.
***the author supports West Ham