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It’s Coming Home

How Three Lions captured the hearts of the nation and what lessons brands can learn.

Paul Reynolds, MassiveMusic

Managing Director

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It seems strange to think there was once a time where the words “it’s coming home” carried little to no significance. Such was the legendary impact of Skinner, Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds’ anthem at Euro 96, the song ‘Three Lions’ today holds an emotional place in the hearts of England fans nationwide. What started out as just another football song has almost now become a sonic identity, and is synonymous with the ongoing endeavours of the England national football team. 

Reflecting on the last 25 years since the song’s debut, many aspects of football have changed drastically, including an entirely new generation of players and football fans. But as England stride out onto the Wembley pitch once again this year to compete in the European Championship, that fabled old song remains. Of course, football is famously known for chanting and singing, but rarely does a song stick for so long. So how did ‘Three Lions’ manage to stand up to the test of time?

Crucially, the song totally captures the emotion of a particular moment, a particular feeling. At Euro 96, the entire country rallied around the England team, but the song captured the sentiment of the past 30 years, with all the disappointments since the famous World Cup victory of 1966, meaning it had a legacy before it was even famous. 

Despite suffering a crushing semi-final defeat at the hands of Germany at Euro 96, if anything, this made the fans’ bond with the song even stronger. Its lyrics speak of past failures and being let down as a fan where the team perhaps hasn’t lived up to the weighty expectations - tapping into emotions that run deeper than simply just that one team and one tournament. 

For many of us who were fortunate to experience Euro 96 and the debut of ‘Three Lions’, yes, reminiscing about it now brings up painful memories of Gareth Southgate’s penalty miss. But it also draws upon iconic moments like beating the Netherlands, Gazza’s wonder goal against Scotland and, looking forward, the excitement, hope and frankly the need that we might finally taste success again. 

Crucially, the song totally captures the emotion of a particular moment, a particular feeling. At Euro 96, the entire country rallied around the England team, but the song captured the sentiment of the past 30 years, with all the disappointments since the famous World Cup victory of 1966, meaning it had a legacy before it was even famous.

Paul Reynolds, Managing Director at international creative music agency, MassiveMusic

The power of sound to drive emotion

This exemplifies the incredibly powerful link between emotion and sound, which brands can tap into, as it only takes those iconic first notes and chants of “It’s coming home” to bring the nostalgia and excitement flooding back. Writing this I already have goosebumps! Ultimately, this demonstrates the function of effective and distinctive sonic branding in driving recall with consumers. 

At the end of the day ‘Three Lions’ is a pop song, it’s simple and it’s easy to sing. But crucially, it’s authentic. Comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel are diehard football lovers, so to other fans it feels like it’s being sung by members of their own and it’s a sound they can really resonate with. Finding your core values and staying true to these is a vital aspect to successful sonic branding. That’s why we launched the MassiveBASS tool, to map brands’ core values and use data and science to find out how that translates into sound. And sonic branding isn’t just about having one flagship logo, it’s far more nuanced, which is why we look at the ways in which sound can be altered and adapted while still remaining true to brands’ core values, to match different platforms and cater to different touchpoints.

‘Three Lions’ translated the quintessentially English values of living in hope and stubborn optimism with the ever-realistic undertones that we will probably falter in a tournament once again, into an anthem which captured the hearts and minds of the nation.

What was once 30 years of hurt has now extended to 55, but the England national football team is full of young, bright and exciting talents who many are tipping as potential winners of Euro 2021. Now, that wouldn’t be very consistent with the “oh-so-nears” referred to in ‘Three Lions’. But, were England to win the tournament, the goal would be wide open for a new song, a new sound and a new feeling to capture and dominate the next chapter of English football - for both the men’s and women’s game. However, for now, in the stadiums, in the pubs and on the streets, ‘Three Lions’ will continue to ring out, in the everlasting hopes that football will one day come home.

 

Guest Author

Paul Reynolds, MassiveMusic

Managing Director,

About

Paul’s career in music started in the late 90s producing and DJing in the dance music scene. After a brief hiatus in the advertising photography world, Paul returned to music production where he managed major international productions for broadcast branding, promos and commercials. He quickly moved up to Head of Production & Business Development, managing a team of producers and composers. In 2011, Paul set up the London operation for international music agency MassiveMusic. He entered the company to the UK and Europe's sonic branding & strategy, music production, supervision, and talent management industries, quickly becoming one of London's leading music agencies. For lovers of 90s house and drum'n'bass, Paul can still sometimes be caught dusting off his decks for a nostalgic vinyl trip.

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