FC Porto & TMN: A new MVNO is born!

Here's something nice: after I mused extensively about the sense and nonsense of MVNO models. I have long been preaching that the true reason (other than price) why people might move would be driven by affinity marketing, namely the strong affiliation to a brand, a cause, an organization conveying something in people's lifestyle that they wish to publicly own up to. So what is one of the strongest affinities people have? Their partner? No, 50% of marriages end in divorce. Their car? No, it breaks down after a while. Their phone? No, they change it every 12-18 months. Their club? YES! Or have you ever heard of a Boston Celtics fan who converted to the Knicks, a 49ers man crossing over to the Raiders? You will not because they do not exist.

Enter the good folks of Portuguese carrier TMN and FC Porto, one of the country's major football (my American friends, read: soccer) clubs. Rather than fussing about sourcing handsets, staffing customer service and equipping shops in AAA locations, they focus on the real thing, namely the brand. The brief PR release outlines the service roughly: "The Dragao Mobile service offers calls to all networks at EUR 0.16 per minute and SMS at EUR 0.08 each, as well as personalised services for club members and fans. The club's name will be shown on the handset display, and users will benefit from exclusive content. Customers will also get 5 percent of the value of each top-up returned to their bank account for use on FC Porto products and services. The package includes a EUR 10 card and a Motorola W218 mobile phone for EUR 59.90."

There you have it. This is as it should be, in a previous post I called this "soft customization": they utilise and activate the brand values by personalizing the handset and giving users some goodies connected to the brand. For the remainder, existing channels, networks, shops, handsets are being used, making the whole thing a whole lot cheaper. For a network operator, this makes sense as it reduces churn (listen & repeat: "no one ever changes the allegiance to their club!"), i.e. fans will be significantly more likely to stay with a network if it is the one where they have the chance to show their allegiance.

I sincerely hope that this will be successful. I would otherwise have to bury my conviction that affinity marketing is one of the instruments of choice in this industry, and that would be a real shame! ;-)