Two of my loves, Football and Marketing, come together in beautiful harmony this Sunday. Or so I hope with the #MUFrontRow campaign. Manchester United have been behind the curve for a long time in sports marketing. Whilst their all powerful commercial arm secures ever more lucrative deals with all manner of sponsors, the fan facing marketing has been largely ignored or woefully unimaginative (the club only established their official twitter profile last summer, although admittedly it became the fastest sports profile to hit one million followers). All the while their noisy neighbours, Manchester City demonstrate continual improvements with their digital offerings. Well at least they were until their sexist new website expansion own goal, elegantly launched in time for International Women’s Day and brilliantly spoofed by @BeardedGenius‘ mockup which you can see below.
This campaign was highlighted to me at an IDM lecture by Paul Smith last week. Paul is a very accomplished and widely published marketing professional who developed the SOSTAC framework that many marketers around the world use, he also runs a community driven sports content platform. On Sunday 16 March 2014, Manchester United are planning to utilise their pitch-side digital advertising hoardings to bring fans from around the world into the Theatre of Dreams, via a Google+ hangout. Usually reserved to showcase lucrative sponsorship advertising, the displays will bring a number of fans to the live game, the lucky individuals will be chosen via photo competition run on the MUFC Google+ page.
Manchester United are the most supported football club in world, boasting a huge worldwide following. This digital innovation, designed by Adam&eveDDB, appears to be exactly the kind of fan engagement the club requires to improve the level of interaction it has with the more far flung fans who would struggle to make it to live games. Whilst only a number of fans will be involved in the live stream, the added bonus for the club is a wealth of content being produced and shared by fans on social media sites amplifies their reach. Richard Arnold, Manchester United Group’s Managing director said “Working with Google we are giving the chance for some of our 659 million followers around the globe to have a unique opportunity to be pitchside at one of the biggest games in world football, something that is a dream for all United fans, no matter where they live.”
The fixture, Manchester United versus Liverpool is a tantalising match between two fierce rivals and a great occasion for MUFC to finally enter the digital space. Hopefully the under performing team can get a result over their rivals to ensure the digital hoardings are displaying smiling faces!