An Official Digital Transformation Partner, an Official Paint Provider, an Official Global Noodle Partner… the list goes on.
Manchester United’s commercial team are experts at milking cash from the club’s global reach and appeal. It seems that everything and anything that can be sponsored at Old Trafford already is, yet still United continue to unveil new partners on a global and regional level.
Strange then that there is still no Manchester United women’s team. In fact, they are one of only two Premier League clubs not to field a female side, with Southampton the other - although they were affiliated to Southampton Saints Girls & Ladies for several years and are considering re-establishing this partnership.
United used to run a women’s side, and still do at youth level, but the senior team was disbanded in 2005. Former boss David Moyes once suggested the club may re-establish a women’s team, but executives have so far refused to make any moves to do so despite calls from Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to rectify the situation.
With United’s social media fan base topping 100m last year, it becomes clear just how much of an impact an MUFC women’s team could have and how many people the sport could be taken to across the world. And that’s what it is – a sport in its own right, not simply the female version of men’s football.MUFC women’s team could have and how many people the sport could be taken to across the world. And that’s what it is – a sport in its own right, not simply the female version of men’s football.
This huge online following could also grow exponentially with the introduction of a Red Devils women’s side as, whilst a high percentage of women will already make up that 100m, there is a potential to increase the number of females among that audience even further thus giving the club and its sponsors a wider demographic to engage with.
Last year, Synergy helped secure and launch SSE’s ground-breaking deal as the first sponsor of the SSE Women’s FA Cup. Over the past year we have seen just what kind of impact any focus on women’s sport can have, highlighted by more than 30,000 spectators filing into Wembley for the Final. Uncharacteristically, United are definitely missing a trick commercially, if not for the sport and for equality then for the sponsorship potential.
United has a huge global fan base and in recent years the club has put a heavy emphasis on growing that support in Asia and North America with pre-season tours, sponsorship deals and even signing Asian stars Park Ji-Sung (South Korea) and Shinji Kagawa (Japan). Women’s football is growing in Asia and there is now an Asian Football Confederation Women’s Day each year, which coincides with International Women’s Day, to celebrate those who play and support the game across the continent.
In the USA, women’s football is huge and the current national team are reigning world champions having won the World Cup last year. Such is the draw of the US women’s team that an average audience of 25.4m watched the final live on TV, the highest viewing figures from any football match, male or female, broadcast on US TV.
So as United strive to grow their fan base across the Atlantic, would it not make sense to launch a women’s team and, as they have done with the current £350m shirt sponsorship with Chevrolet and previous AIG deal before that, possibly seek sponsors from the States?
United’s brilliant commercial department has taken the club to the verge of replacing Real Madrid at the top of the Deloitte Football Money League within the next 12 months, largely due to the world record deals with Chevrolet and Adidas, the growing portfolio of sponsors and increased broadcast and match day revenue. Surely a women’s team is next on the agenda?
United were late to the Twitter party, not launching their official account until July 2013 once all other major clubs worldwide were already well established on the platform. Despite this, it didn’t take them too long to catch up with their rivals. Maybe they are going to be fashionably late to the women’s football party too and, hopefully, catch up in the same way. After all, it’s a bit of a no-brainer given the global commercial potential.