by Pierce Ivory
Manchester United, arguably one of the most iconic football (soccer) teams on the planet right now have just taken the USA by storm.
Their pre-season tour of the U.S has been driven by a ferocious and perfectly oiled marketing machine. On Saturday August 2nd United took on the might of European Champions, Real Madrid at the Michigan Stadium aka ‘The Big House’.
This sporting event made history in the U.S. It was the largest crowd ever to watch a soccer match on American soil with a staggering 109,318 passionate fans.
Winning the overall tournament on Monday 4th August, in the final against Liverpool Fc was purely the icing on the cake in what turned out to be a hugely successful campaign both on and off the field.
It is no coincidence that the Premier League giants were involved in this record breaking sporting event. Alongside Real Madrid they are a huge attraction globally. The Marketing and PR team behind United have the brand performing exponentially on all online digital platforms as well as offline media. With their offline presence ever increasing, we take a look at Manchester United online and evaluate their most engaging channels.
With well over 54 million followers worldwide on Facebook (after just over 1 year), Manchester United are eclipsed on this social media giant only by Barcelona at 71 million and Real Madrid at 68 million fans. According to Social Bakers the Manchester giants are adding a staggering 90, 813 fans to Facebook every day. Their social signals on this platform are going through the roof with Indonesia being their largest fan base with almost 8 million fans growing at 15% per annum.
United’s digital reach on Facebook spans across all continents and is growing at an incredible rate. Growth across Asia and North America is far greater for United than it is for Real or Barcelona. Another important factor is the growth of club popularity in India with United winning over 3.5 million fans (growth 6.4%) and Barcelona with 2.6 million (growth 3.7%) and Real Madrid at 2.2 million (growth 3.3%).
The Manchester franchise are on the popular micro blogging platform for 2 years. They have recruited almost 3 million followers over that time. Adding 3600 followers per day to their army on twitter makes them one of the fastest growing sports brands on twitter.
Barcelona top the poll for Soccer teams on twitter with 12.2 million followers in almost 5 years. Real Madrid (of course) are a close 2nd with 12.1 million followers after 6 years on twitter. Barcelona also appear 5th and 9th in the charts with their Spanish (6.8 million followers) and Catalan (4.4 million followers) accounts.
For Manchester United this is one of their fastest growing channels. They have already won over 3.1 million followers and have become the fastest growing Soccer brand profile on Google+ adding 7900 loyal followers per day. Recent research carried out by Kantar claims that United have 659 million fans worldwide. As Google+ is Google’s very own Social Layer, Manchester United are using it to bring the brand to its worldwide audience.
Google+ and it’s integrated Hangouts on Air feature give users a front seat view of live interviews with first team players and a behind the scenes look at what happens at Old Trafford. Richard Arnold, group managing director on the launch of their Google+ page last year said:
“Today marks another exciting development in the club’s digital media offering. These social media sites provide us with the platform to unite our fans across the globe and bring them closer to the club.”
Google+ offers the United brand transparency across the web. They can now seamlessly showcase themselves face to face with their fans.
Another of Uniteds Social Media outlets is Instagram. With over 1.4 million fans now following Manchester United, Instagram is proving to be another important online channel for the Super Brand. According to Nick Coppack of manutd.com –
Our Instagram account showcases the very best Manchester United imagery, be it classic or contemporary, with contributions not just from the club’s photographers but also from you, the fans.
Sina Weibo & Renren
The site boasts over 370 million active users and this can only be good news for Manchester United.
United launched it’s Weibo profile in July 2013 and already it has 5.5 million dedicated fans. Sina Weibo is a micro blogging platform where users can post, comment and share news.
Renren is another Social Network that has been likened to Facebook. With over 110 million active users Manchester United have seized another opportunity to spread their global brand further into the Far East.
Last season was Manchester United’s worst finish in the league in 24 years. The implications of this resulted in failing to qualify for the Uefa Champions league with a loss of earnings estimated at £30 million. Most sports brand’s reputation would suffer considerably if they were subjected to such a poor run of form. The Manchester United brand has had online growth beyond all expectations in the last year and recent months. The club have also reported that sponsorship income grew 43.5 per cent in its latest quarter (quoted May 2014)
Loyalty to the sports brand is deep rooted in society, not just in the UK but all over the globe. As the world gets smaller and comes closer together through social and digital media, Manchester United continue to grow online driven by clever digital marketing strategies that continue to reap the benefits for this modern day Digital Giant.