Norfolk must promote itself on the back of Norwich City’s Premier League return

PUBLISHED: 19:24 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 19:32 08 August 2019

Norwich City's Premier League return will result in a boost for the county, but how much of a boost depends on how Norfolk is promoted, says Nick Conrad

 Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City's Premier League return will result in a boost for the county, but how much of a boost depends on how Norfolk is promoted, says Nick Conrad Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

Nick Conrad says Norfolk needs to milk Norwich City’s Premier League return and promote itself while the football club is in the spotlight

Here we go!

As the Canaries prepare to start their top-flight campaign in Merseyside, many keen advocates will hope that the club's elevation will boost Norfolk companies. But does rubbing shoulders with the elite mean that we will become a premier city for business? Whilst Daniel Farke shuffles players around the pitch, who is drawing up the tactics ensuring Norfolk can get in on the celebrations.

The global interest in British football is a lucrative market. What is the magic formula to transfer Norwich City's success on the pitch into the boardroom? In a digital age the opportunities are significant, but we must have the right conversation, with the right people, in the right territories. Last week I spoke with a gentleman who used to work with a company trading in China. He claimed local councils underestimated the subtle opportunities that arrive with a club's elevation to the top flight.

As an example: the top search results on Baidu (China's Google) when you type in 'Norfolk' is the Norfolk Police website, closely followed by the county council. It's most unlikely that either of these services will be of interest to Chinese visitors or those wishing to invest in Norfolk. We need a targeted website that introduces visitors to our county, outlining all the amazing opportunities on offer when working, living and visiting Norfolk. Any 'web-gateway' needs to be translated into key world languages and geared up towards the top of major search engines.

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Firstly, we need to better understand how this part of the UK is viewed overseas. We appear to outsiders as a geographical gem, albeit with poor infrastructure and transport. I remember a local hotelier in Shanghai asking where in the UK I hailed from. He had spent four years studying in Hertfordshire and knew East Anglia reasonably well. He viewed Norfolk as being 'on the outskirts of London.' That statement might feel rather far-fetched. However, remember the 120 miles that separates our country and county capitals pales in comparison to the seismic gap between major internal Chinese markets. Shanghai and Beijing are separated by nearly 800 miles!

Our proximity to Cambridge and London is majorly beneficial, especially for development in the south of Norfolk. Though many foreign companies would dearly love the weighty tag of being based in the world-renowned city of academia, or the most famous city in the world, many can't actually afford weighty limited real estate. It means companies are scouting out opportunities in nearby towns and cities, with access to the bigger markets. This is where Norwich (forgive the pun) can score!

But to stretch the football analog, who is the agent who is peddling brand Norfolk? We need individuals with dedicated expertise who can attract companies wishing to invest in the UK. We need to identify how we entice these companies into our county, in turn securing jobs and investment. To achieve this, all of Norfolk's collective councils need to work coherently to develop sector strategies, earmarking areas of opportunity and local expertise. Agritech, renewable energy, food and manufacturing are key markets to exploit. We need to think beyond the obvious and immediate bonus that comes with our promotion to the top flight.

Researchers looked at the Welsh team, Swansea City FC, when they won promotion to the top flight. It was estimated that the immediate city economy was boosted by around £46m a season! The majority of the cash injection is attributed to added jobs, away fans spending money and the general boost that a Premier League team brings to a region. But the instant elation felt in South Wales was short lived. Some accused the local authority of not sufficiently planning for using the boost to attract a longer-term interest in the region from overseas.

Frankly I haven't a clue whether the criticism is fair or not, but it made me wonder who is selling our county overseas. Now many of us might argue that the international promotion of the region would have been easier under devolution but that ship has sailed.

Having sat down with Norwich City's chief operating officer this week, I can vouch that the club is moving in the right direction on and off the pitch. Most importantly good luck to my beloved team tonight! On The Ball City… let's just hope those promoting our county have got the right tactics too.

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