In February 1972, a football commercial hit our screens on ITV. It was acknowledged as being a big success (apart from some in the media) and gained a lot of publicity at the time. The friendly match against West Bromwich Albion was set for a Friday night and also at very short notice. The events leading up to this little bit of history were covered in great detail the following week in the Blackpool programme as follows:-
Last week’s Thames Television commercial for our friendly match with West Bromwich Albion FC caused quite a stir and we thought you might like to know all the details behind it. The friendly fixture was arranged at only a week’s notice and, as a result, we had great difficulty in publicising it. Luton Town FC very kindly helped us by giving details of the game over their P.A. System at the previous Saturday’s away match (thank you Luton!). However, little publicity had appeared in the National Press because the newspapers, although sympathetic, had little space to spare for a friendly game.
Three days before the match we had sold exactly 12 tickets for it and, where we had originally hoped for a gate of 7,000 – 8,000, we now began to doubt that we would even get 3,000 spectators. Rangers Chairman, Jim Gregory, suggested we investigate the possibilities of a television commercial and you all saw the result on your screens in full colour at 18.55 hours on Thursday, 3rd February (one hour earlier than previously announced). The results exceeded all our expectations. On the following morning, a non-stop queue formed at our Box Office and our phone rang continually throughout the day with enquires about the game. (We particularly liked the phone call from a father who had never been to a football match in his life but was coming along to the West Bromwich game because his boy had seen our commercial).
Ironically, we now received considerable publicity in the newspapers for the game because they all covered the story that this was the first ever soccer commercial ! And our gate of 7,087 was eventually bang on our 7,000 target – thus making the fixture a financial success for both teams. Just one point requires clarification and this concerns the cost of the commercial which was mysteriously reported as being £750 in some newspapers. The true cost was £192.50 and this, when shared 50:50 by both clubs, amounted to a net charge of £96.25 against Rangers. You may judge for yourselves whether we think it was worthwhile ! For those who missed this bit of soccer history, the commercial appears opposite (below) starring, as we said at the time “the-one-and-only Rodney Marsh”
I also have a short newspaper report with the headline: ‘QPR’s TV Flop’ and goes on to say:- ‘Rangers £750 splash on a ten-second TV spot to advertise this friendly against the First Division strugglers didn’t pay off. Only 7,087 turned up…although the star of the plug, Rodney Marsh, scored. The ad disaster wasn’t the only reason for Rangers misery, for they were often outclassed by a smart Albion outfit. The claim that Gordon Jago’s men are well equipped for First Division Soccer took a battering. Albion lost an early lead – Jeff Astle set up Tony Brown in the 11th minute – five minutes from time when Marsh flicked in a clever John O’Rourke back-header. But Asa Hartford dribbled past Phil Parkes for a brilliant last-gasp winner. Marsh was the only real menace in the Rangers attack although Albion goalkeeper John Osborne made three great saves in the last 20 minutes when the Londoners had their brighter moments.’
The Rangers squad that night was: Parkes, Gillard, Watson, Hazell, Venables, Mancini, Busby, Saul, Salvage, Francis, Leach, Marsh, Ferguson and O’Rourke.