Growing up in one of the biggest Free State townships, there
were two words that every child in the neighbourhood knew in
English: "Green" and "White". It is a testament to the popularity,
love and loyalty to Bloemfontein Celtic (Phunya Sele Sele), a
soccer club that plays in South Africa's Premier League. Founded in
1969 as Mangaung United FC, it has distinctive green and white
Siwelele/Masokolara a Masele, as Celtic supporters are known,are
arguably the most passionate supporters in South Africa. Many of
them have lost their jobs and marriages for the love of their team.
They are known for their enthusiastic singing throughout football
matches - even when the team is losing - and this spirit has
carried the team throughout their toughest times. Strangely, this
same spirit is true of Celtic Football Club, the green-and-white
team of the United Kingdom. It attracts huge numbers of fans to its
home games, making it the third most popular team in the country
after world famous rivals Manchester United and Arsenal. In both
countries the teams of green and white have created passionate fans
beyond what their performance can explain.
Masokolara are famous for illustrating their love for their team
in colour, and this tradition has passed from generation to
generation. Some supporters go so far as painting their houses,
cars and clothing green and white. The green and white tradition
has become so iconic of Bloemfontein Celtic that the Free State
marketing team centred their 2007 Durban Indaba stand on these two
colours, using their emotional power to punt not only the football
club, but the whole province.
According to Mariel Bacci, "every colour has a specific effect
on a human's mind" and the discipline of colour psychology has
grown up around this observation. Colours make a subtle but
important impression - and can easily affect our purchasing
decisions as consumers.
The specific associations that our minds make with each colour
vary by culture, time and place. To some of us, green may represent
envy, Islam or nature. And white is often understood to mean purity
or freedom. These may be strange associations for a football club -
a category that implies energy and pride - but meaning is also
created through repetition and powerful branding. (And perhaps
Phunya Sele Sele fans are living 'freedom' in their singing and
Brands often try to 'own' certain colours. In the mobile
telecomms and financial services industries, each player has a
distinctive colour. Colour is a simple, but effective method for
creating communities of fans. It allows fans to identify with your
brand, while personalizing their love and making it their own.
Bloemfontein Celtic has inspired generations of fans to colour
their lives green and white. They have used colour to tap into a
sense of belonging and community, and built visibility for their
team. Colour is a powerful tool for brands, and every brand owner
should be finding ways to use it to drive engagement and awareness.
You don't need to be a football club to get it right.