Manchester United, now the world’s richest football club, is to
build a direct marketing strategy to communicate with its four million
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
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
See Profile, page 14.