I get asked all the time why I love Manchester City so much, but I am often asked in a business capacity (not a sporting one), so I hope this playful list of reasons goes someway towards explaining…
1. Manchester City Understand Social Media
“I think this is due to how the club perceives itself within the footballing world. Some clubs may see themselves simply as a brand that exists separately from the day-to-day lives of their supporters and because there are no real direct revenue stream, do not see the value of social media.
For various reasons, others may feel that social media is not a worthwhile endeavour for them and somewhat of a minefield that is best steered clear of. At City we’re proud of the way that the club is able to reach out to supporters and we’re proud of the way the fans have reacted and embraced what we’re trying to do.
We’re also keen to ensure that the club remains at the forefront of new developments in the field of social media whilst it is imperative that the club’s soul, the very reason why people fall in love with Manchester City, is retained”.
Chris Nield, Social Media Executive (!) at Manchester City Football Club
2. MCFC Tell Stories
As a brand guy, I love that City have a separate site just for telling stories. A great brand becomes great because of how it makes people feel. Giving the fans such a strong voice and a platform to share their own stories is genius.
In the business world, as in the football world, “Whoever tells the best stories goes home with the most marbles”.
3. They’re Sponsored by Umbro
I have loved Umbro’s commitment to soccer ever since they ran football boot ad’s saying, “Your sister will never have a tennis dress with our logo on it”. Funny how the company that the ad was aimed at, Nike, now owns Umbro.
Many of my friends felt like they weren’t punks anymore in their Chuck Taylor All-Stars when Nike bought Converse. My point is, we needn’t have worried. Nike is a GREAT brand, but Manchester City is a grass-roots club and it needs a grass-roots football sponsor on the shirt. They proved themselves to me with this years away kit, which is modeled on the City of Manchester crest.
Not on a previous shirt of bygone times or a shirt aimed at MCFC fans, but a shirt aimed at citizens of Manchester generally. It was a nod to the great city of Manchester and not just another indulgent retro kit. I like that.
OK. So it was naughty pretty much rubbing it in the faces of Manchester United when superstar Carlos Tevez had just joined Man City, but the ‘Welcome to Manchester’ campaign picked up the Grand Prix prize at last year’s Roses Advertising Awards. As an ad guy, the audacity of this campaign makes me smile.
Even at the beginning of this season, it amazes me that there are Manchester City billboards and adverts all over Manchester and not one United ad to be seen.
Whether City need more fans or not, they are certainly strengthening their position as the people’s club. The only United ad’s anywhere are the ones by MUST – the group campaigning against the Glazer’s ownership. Hardly a positive brand building exercise by any means (and surprising that United are doing nothing to combat all the negativity too).
5. MCFC Knows Great Design
I love that one the best design studios in the country, Music, based in Manchester, is responsible for much of Manchester City’s print communications. I really love this illustration of Carlos Tevez ‘Pasion’ that they produced with Shephard Fairey’s studio, Studio Number One. (They of the iconic Obama ‘Hope’ campaign posters).
6. They LOVE Their Fans
You can’t go to a MCFC home game these days without seeing stewards all around the ground with “Got a Question” hi-viz vests on. Makes a nice change from being pushed around by mounted Police the second you get off the tram! I know many of the 33,000+ season card holders all know exactly where they are going, but as I stood waiting for a coffee, I must have counted at least 10 people who were rescued, helped or made to feel very welcome and obviously hadn’t been to Eastlands before.
City’s commitment to great customer service is obviously more than skin deep because when I booked by pre-season ticket for Valencia, the ticket office guys had been reading this book from the Disney Institute, “Be Our Guest : Perfecting The Art of Customer Service”. It reminds me of the HR policy of those Kings of customer service Virgin, who “Hire the right people, give them the right tools and then get the hell out of the way!“
8. MCFC are Family Friendly
Many clubs are family focused now, and maybe I just fell lucky on a quiet pre-season friendly, but coming out of my seat at half-time and getting served at the bar quickly, I had time to watch my son participate in a great magicians show where he made £100 disappear into a passing girls handbag. (Arsenal made me wait 20 mins for a beer at the Emirates. Not much fun when half time is only 15 mins)!
9. Bellamy – Give My All [VIDEO]
I have no idea who produced this, but if great branding is about telling stories well and communicating them even better, can I nominate this little piece of Craig Bellamy for a D&AD award please?
10. I Didn’t Get Robbed!
I hate to turn this into a Man United v Man City article, but why did Man U charge £10-£20 for tickets to watch the team train a few weeks ago, when Man City was FREE. Yes, FREE! Is it that the Glazers need the money and City’s Arab owners don’t, or is it just that the club is committed to giving fans an experience of the club before the season’s festivities start.
After all, many Mancunians can’t afford game day tickets, but they were still able to turn up a few weeks ago and watch their favourite players for free. Always the small things that make a big difference.
I wrote a popular article on this a few months ago, but it is one of the things that I still highlight when I talk about the club in business circles. The www.mcfc.co.uk website is unique because it doesn’t have any advertising on it! Once their web designers (Poke) understood that too many fans see the website as another commercial arm of the club just trying to sell them more stuff, they took the ad’s off and turned it into an online community (at Arsenal’s, for example, users have to negotiate an ad for a credit card before even reaching the home page).
People argued at the time that it was because the club didn’t need the extra online ad revenue but that was not the reason at all. Now the site feels like a fans playground and guess what – merchandise sales on the site shot up over 50%. Great forward thinking and something that should inspire other brand owners to follow suit…
12. MCFC Tweet (and tweet well..!)
I followed them. They Followed Me! I even got a nice (non-automated message) from them and a few tweets that I was actually interested in. Twitter is getting far too crowded these days with many brands still unsure of how to use it properly, so it made a refreshing change to feel like I was actually having a conversation with a big brand. Something I don’t take for granted anymore. http://twitter.com/mcfc
13. The Umbro Playlist
The Umbro Playlist asks City fans to pick out a trio of tunes that they think best fits a theme we set for each game. You pick three songs, submit them on the MCFC Facebook page, and the winner gets two tickets. It’s a great way to win prizes and showcase your musical taste – or lack of! Not only that, but your songs will be played before the game in the ground, so everyone will be able to give their opinion on your choices. Click here for the Umbro Playlist
14. There are Real Manucians in this Area!
It’s hard not to take the blue’s side when talking about fan base because so many of the Red’s fans across town travel up from Essex, Ireland, London and yes, even Liverpool. It was hard not to raise a sly smile when I saw these t-shirts in the superstore and the banner above the local pub warned people to beware, “Real Mancunians are in this area!”
15. We’re Not Really Here
This banner is still up at every home game after what started as a chant when things weren’t going so great for the club just over 10 years ago. What I loved about City fans back then was that despite the clubs woes, they still had the most loyal and committed fans on any league, especially at away matches.
Many away matches had more City fans than home fans. This is exactly what Kevin Roberts (top man at ad agency Saatchi) was referring to when he wrote his now infamous Lovemarks book about “loyalty beyond reason“.
16. Live4City – Tips & Tricks
The club designed to support grass-roots football, giving tips and tricks to players or coaches who might now be in an area where there’s anywhere decent to play? Surely not. Kudos to whoever put this nice little site together.
17. Because of Kevin Cummins
The one-and-only Mr. Kevin Cummins – photographer extraordinaire. Who needs rock star photographer Phil Joanou when you’ve got Kevin – the man behind the lens at many a Joy Division, Factory Records or Smiths photo shoot.
As I understand it, he still does much of the clubs publicity, which explains why the images across all media look so incredible. Football fan or photography aficionado, you can’t help but admire Man City’s artwork.
See above. It is an exercise in magazine design excellence. Ad friendly, great copy, fantastic layout, lots of well taken arty (Kevin Cummins?) pictures, but ‘Nuts’ or ‘Zoo’ it isn’t. Why don’t all football magazines look like this?
Lastly, I loved Noel’s quote, taken from the new Manchester City film, due out mid-September. It just sums everything up nicely…
“Any football fan just wants to be proud of their team. Whether they win or lose is really irrelevant”.