DIRECT: Man United sets up DM strategy to lift fanbase

Manchester United, now the world’s richest football club, is to build a direct marketing strategy to communicate with its four million fans.

Manchester United, now the world’s richest football club, is to

build a direct marketing strategy to communicate with its four million

fans.



United has brought in direct marketing and sales promotion company IMP

to research and implement a strategy of ongoing communications with its

fans. The club already has a database of 750,000 fans, but only makes

use of this sporadically.



Peter Draper, Umbro’s marketing director who joins United in September,

is keen to push direct marketing to the forefront of United’s marketing

strategy, as the club attempts to increase loyalty among its existing

fanbase and targets new fans. He said: ’United has started the process

with initial research and has begun to put things into operation.’



Draper said he expected a full direct marketing programme to be

operational before the end of the year. This will involve direct mail

communication to the club’s fans in the UK and other countries. It is

also looking at using internet and e-mail to communicate directly with

fans in countries with large fan bases such as China, Australia and

Scandinavia.



Mail will be used to drive loyalty to the club and could involve sales

of merchandise through direct selling. Draper said: ’We’ve got a big job

to do in understanding the relationship we have with fans, and we need

to provide a level of service that is not exploitative. We also need to

bring new fans in and retain them.’



The merchandising potential for United was illustrated by its recent

tour of Australia and China. United’s commercial activities included

branded merchandise stores, a museum and tour centre, MUTV cable channel

and free internet access for fans.



A direct marketing strategy will also support new Manchester United

commercial ventures. The club is opening a series of shops across the

Middle East and Southeast Asia called Theatre of Dreams in partnership

with FJ Benjamin Holdings.



However, the intensity of off-the-field activity has worried some

Manchester United fans who fear the club is moving away from its roots.

Draper hopes that a relationship marketing programme will help to allay

such fears by building closer links with fans.



The club has around two million fans in the UK and 500,000 potential

customers in Asia. These numbers look set to grow after Man United’s

treble of the Champion’s League, Premier League and FA Cup last

season.



See Profile, page 14.



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