From being the best club in the world, to the best marketed club in the world

My name is Christopher Hynds, I’m 22 years old, I am a final year Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster Uni, currently working part time as a Marketing and Communications assistant at Clanmil Housing Association. Oh, and I also happen to support Manchester United Football Club.

If you’re wondering why anybody would ever want to introduce themselves by bringing up such a divisive topic like supporting Man Utd, don’t worry, it’s generally not how I would introduce myself to a total stranger. Also, if you have seen the mention of the word football and Man Utd and continued this far, fair play, but this post isn’t entirely about a football team.

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When tasked with producing a blog for the first time in my life (not counting the many times we have been encouraged to post in this over the past years), my mind, like it does in most moments when I really need it to come up with an idea, came to a complete and utter blank. Panicking, I quickly started jotting down the various things that make me who I am; what I do, my interests, hobbies, my work life and my school life. Very quickly I noticed some recurring themes. Football. Man United. Going out. My job as a Marketing and Communications assistant. My studies as Communications and PR student. Football. Man United.

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All of a sudden, things started swirling in my head and I had one of those things that you get sometimes, an idea I think it’s called? Why not combine some of these. Marketing and Man Utd, genius. The biggest club in the world, through the lens of something I have studied and also happen to do for some beer money, Marketing.

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If you get squeamish at the mention of the word football from this point I apologise because from this point onward I will be alluding to some on and off field activity by Man Utd, but mostly I want to look at how Manchester United have marketed themselves since they were bought over by Billionaire Malcolm Glazer on the advent of £100,000,000 pound footballers, and how as a business, it has alienated it’s consumers, or, it’s fans so to speak.

Short bit of history of the club that is necessary for context (sorry). Manchester United Football Club for years have been one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Their Head Coach or Manager or Glorious Leader if you are a United fan, for 27 years from 1987 to 2013 was a man called Sir Alex Ferguson who, as you could imagine, managed the players and the team. He was assisted for years by a man called David Gill, in the capacity of Director of Football. This is a ambiguous term in football but it is generally someone who, working with the manager and a budget given to him by the board, decides what players to buy or sell for the club. The board ran the club and took control of all commercial issues.

United gained a lot of their supporters during Ferguson’s time in charge as they won 38 trophies in his 27 years as manager of the team, breaking records and setting precedents. With good football and success came fans, with more fans came more money and with more money around the club came more interested suitors. United were bought out in between 2003 and 2005 by the Glazer Family, billionaires from the USA, all the while being advised by an accountant named Ed Woodward who would later become Director of Commercial and Media Operations at the club, bringing the clubs commercial revenue from £48.7m in 2005 to £272.6 in 2017.

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The product of a football club is ultimately the team that is playing football for the club, and these players market the team excellently (sometimes) by playing well. The consumers of the club are the fans. When the product (the team) is good and the team are winning, then the consumer (the fan) is also happy, and that’s what I believe football should be about. But Manchester United’s only product isn’t just the team that plays for them every week, how could you make any money off 22 players who earn £100k a week? Man United’ “second” product is their vast merchandise range. It has vast commercial interests and sponsorship deals, it has its own TV channel, and a website to market these tie ins and products.

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They have gained a reputation for being the most supported club in the world, boldly claiming in 2012 to have 659 million fans worldwide. Broken down, it was estimated that 90 million of those fans came from Europe, 71 million of those came from the Americas, 173 million from the Middle East and Africa, and 325 million coming from Asia Pacific. With all those fans, comes all the sales of merchandise, and as you can imagine, when a brand new replica jersey new costs £70 to buy when it is released and you have a target audience of 659 million people, then you are going to want to market your brand well.

Fans were happy with good football on the pitch and good players, but when Ferguson and Gill left the club in 2013, the board was left with a massive task of replacing a legendary manager and a very savvy Director of Football in David Gill.

They gave the Director of Football job to the smart accountant who had overseen making the club all its money with its commercial interests, Ed Woodward. Ed may be the smartest guy in world when it comes to making money, but he hasn’t got a clue about football. And he has been trusted since 2013 to make all decisions regarding football played at the club. The guy clearly knows how to make a deal with a commercial entities though, as evidenced by these very cringeworthy corporate tie in advertisements. i will never be able to look at Wayne Rooney the same way.

The accountant in Ed Woodward makes Man United a lot of money, but this has sacrifices the quality of how they play. He has gone through three managers in 5 years, with very little success on the pitch. He signed one of the biggest managers in the world, Jose Mourinho, and has failed to work well with him, signing players that will make the club money, as opposed to players who the very expensive manager wants. He has made no effort to cooperate with new managers and give them the players they want. He signs nice players like Paul Pogba who has a generation of young fans dabbing and millions of fans on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, because he knows it is going to sell well for the club in terms of its commercial value, but he doesn’t put any consideration into the quality of the product.

A player called Alexis Sanchez is the epitome of this. The team did not need him, he was ageing, but he was a very luxurious player with a massive reputation whose wages were more than any other player in the club, although he had a very good reputation, the manager did not want him. The transfer was made regardless, there was a social media reveal with Alexis Sanchez playing a piano to the song “Glory, Glory, Man United” and Alexis Sanchez went on to break records for jersey sales, I’m sure Ed was buzzing. But the manager wasn’t, the fans aren’t. Alexis Sanchez scored 24 goals in 38 games the year before he joined United. He has scored 3 in 18 since joining, and United have slumped to eight place this season. Glory, Glory, Man United, indeed.

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The club has been excessively marketing itself brilliantly, and as you can see by the revenue increase every year, this has been working, with the club making massive profits. But with the ambition to succeed and make its consumers happy gone and replaced with the desire to milk the proverbial cow, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of true fans. It’s like Apple and how they excessively market their product so well and with so much money and quality in their adverts that they have everyone thinking that the product is so great, when in reality they are alienating their customers by releasing new phones each year and making the software slower on older models. You can make your product look well but what is the use when it’s consumers are sitting with a useless product that looks shiny. Rant Blog over.

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Christopher Hynds is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @chrissyoheidin ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-hynds-a60531162/

FOOTBALL VS PUBLIC RELATIONS Volume 1: Part II

FOOTBALL VS PUBLIC RELATIONS

Volume 1: Part II

 

Public Relations within Soccer

Hi everyone, welcome back. If you read my last blog post you would know that I looked at the similarities between football and public relations. If you haven’t saw it yet, feel free to go check it out. Today I’m sticking with the football theme but I want to look and see what PR exists in football today.

 

Now, if we look at footballers we can’t deny that they have been blessed with remarkable talent. Fortunately for them they are able to make a living (a really good living) from displaying this talent. But where would they be without their fans? If they didn’t have the support of millions behind them then the footballing industry as we know it would not be as popular as it is today and it certainly wouldn’t be making as much money as it does. This is why I feel that it is important for the sport to give back to us. The fans. What is football without its supporters?

 

Barclays did exactly that. If you aren’t a big supporter of football then all you need to know is Barclays sponsors the Premier League, and the Premier League is the top division in England and one of the most popular leagues in the world. The new footballing seasons kick off in the middle of August and Barclay’s thought this would be the perfect opportunity to thank the fans which is why they launched this campaign on the 16th of August. Just days before the new season started. They released a 90 second video titled “Thank you” which was aimed at the fans. The video consisted of looking at different fans of different ages who supported a variety of teams in the league. It followed their journey to the match and during the match and finished it off with “To follow is to love. To the millions of fans who make the Barclay’s Premier League what it is, we say thank you.” This is the perfect message. The way the say it is the fans who make the league what it is and not the players shows their appreciation and is pretty much saying without us, they wouldn’t be able to have their dream job. This video was distributed worldwide and it hit 200 different countries reaching hundreds of millions of people. With this video they are also promoting competitions to win tickets and they have paired with the hashtag “#YouAreFootball”.

 

I feel like the reasoning behind this has been based behind some negative issues especially with FIFA. At the time they had been under the spotlight in terms of corruption and although they now have sacked their president who was responsible, I still feel like that reputation has been damaged and not mended completely. This campaign, in my opinion, was Barclay’s way of building trust and showing that they are not the same as FIFA. I feel that maybe FIFA should take a page out of Barclays book and try something to rebuild their relationship with the fans.

 

However, this is where I’m going to leave off today. Stay tuned for future posts and I hope you have a very nice day.

 

Joseph McAuley is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @JosephMcAuley96 / Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joseph.mcauley.3 

Football Fanatic

Not many things will get me up early on a cold wet and windy Sunday morning in January but football is the one thing that will.

I have been playing Gaelic football since I can remember for my local club St Marys Burren.

My family has always been involved with our local club from playing to supporting. From a young age I have always been interested in sport from swimming to Irish dancing to netball to gymnastics but football has been the one sport that I have always had a passion for and enjoyed playing.

I would encourage anyone to join a football team or to take up a sport or even re-join one as the benefits are life long and worth every session training in the cold and wet!!

 Four key life benefits that playing sport brings:

  • Working as a teamCF20It goes without saying that working as part of a team is key when playing football and most team sports for that matter. This is a quality that is rhymed off at many job interviews but playing football instils the skills working and communicating within a team and how your strengths can be part of something greater and work with others to achieve a common goal.

 

  • Exercise mental and physical health

An obvious one but training 2- 3 nights a week with a match at the weekend does bring your physical fitness levels up and there is no better feeling than feeling fit – all the shuttle run sprints are worth it come championship in the summer.

An aspect that is often over looked is mental health. Sport plays an incredible role on the state of your mental health. The positive effects playing sport has is often forgotten or down played, anytime I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed with work or university as soon as I put on my football boots I become focused and determined to do well in training it helps take my mind off whatever is making my feel stressed or anxious and helps me realise that there are other things going on in life and not to get bogged down on the negative aspects.

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  • Social Aspect:

One of the best things about playing football and sport in general is the friendships you make along the way. I have been playing football with some of these girls since primary school!

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The craic that you manage to have even when you doing hill sprints up the side of the Mourne Mountains just shows how strong the bond with your team mates can be. It is something that shouldn’t be undervalued the friendships you make with people in your local club and parish, some of the best nights out our nights with my team mates whether it be our annual dinner dance or club fundraising nights.

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  • Being part of something bigger

The GAA is a fantastic organisation to be part of. With a GAA club set up in most countries around the world it is a large organisation that still has the feel of a grassroots organisation with the local clubs the heart and soul of the GAA. My club St Marys Burren motto is “Ar Aghaidh le Cheile” which means forward together. This motto is something that is strongly practised within the club and whilst playing as part of our team. Playing support has instilled a sense of commitment and belonging to something bigger.

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My advice (although slightly bias)  for anyone reading this is to consider taking up a sport, it is never too late or for those who have fallen away to consider re-joining you cannot put into words the advantages that sport brings to your life so why not get stuck in!!

Caoimhe Fitzpatrick is a Final Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at University of Ulster. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhef_95 / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caoimhe-fitzpatrick-0b8682110/

FOOTBALL VS PUBLIC RELATIONS Volume 1: Part I

FOOTBALL VS PUBLIC RELATIONS Volume 1: Part I

FOOTBALL VS PUBLIC RELATIONS

Volume 1: Part I

How are football and Public Relations Similar?

One thing that I’ve always enjoyed since I was a young boy was football. I loved watching football, I loved playing football, and I even collected trading cards. I have enough jerseys to wear a different one each day for a month. It is one of my greatest passions and not for one moment did I ever stop and think about how it could relate to my course until recently. Since starting the Advanced Public Relations module this semester, I have grown to realise how much the two have in common.

Think I’m crazy? Well let me explain. In football it doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re always going to need help from team mates. You need to listen to each other and communicate effectively to carry out the tactics put in place. Everyone has a job to do and it is their responsibility to do it the best of their ability. If not they run the risk of letting the whole team down. This is the exact same for someone working in PR, you are part of a team and you need to work together and use your communication skills to carry out the strategy which was created to make the campaign as successful as possible. This goes for whatever role you were assigned, whether you are analysing the situation, carrying out research or putting a video together.

Still not convinced? Maybe this point will change your mind. In a recent lecture I was told that there is no one right way to create a successful PR campaign and that different people will use different models depending on what they feel comfortable with. Football is no different. When a manager is setting up his team there are a variety of different formations and different play styles that they could use. The manager will obviously have one he is familiar with but may have to change it to something which best suits the squad of players he has at his disposal or the team they are facing. If you go on to a career in PR you may have to adapt, because you never know what is going to happen in the future. Something that worked for you once may not work the next time, so you’re going to have to find a way around this.

 

I’ll give you one more point so you definitely see where I’m coming from. When creating a PR campaign one of the first things you ask yourself is “What do I want to achieve from this?”. Objectives are a very important aspect in everything as it provides you with motivation and gives you the opportunity to look back and see how successful you have been. You will always have objectives, both for the campaign and personally. These may be to improve your own skills as no one is perfect and there’s always room to grow. Football teams also have objectives they aim for across a season in order for them to consider it a success, but each individual player will also want to continuously improve to be the best they can be in their position.

Hopefully by this stage you can see how there are similarities between football and PR and I have only scratched the surface, there are many more ways in which they are similar, but I feel I have taken up enough of your time so this is where I’ll leave you.

Stay tuned for future posts and I hope you have a very nice day.

Joseph McAuley is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @JosephMcAuley96 / Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joseph.mcauley.3