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United command a bigger social reach than Rihanna or Justin Timberlake, says group manager


Manchester United group manager Richard Arnold speaking at the Web Summit in Dublin

Manchester United group manager Richard Arnold speaking at the Web Summit in Dublin

Manchester United group manager Richard Arnold speaking at the Web Summit in Dublin

While Manchester United were huffing and puffing on the pitch last year, the tills were ringing loud and clear from Salford to China.

Football fans sometimes shout the loudest in the face of adversity and that was certainly the case for the Old Trafford club last season when David Moyes and his side flopped on the pitch.

That’s according to Manchester United Group Manager Richard Arnold, who says that the uncertainty from events on the field united the fans off it.

“The primary aim is to be successful on the pitch. Everything we do on and off the pitch is aimed at that,” said Arnold at today’s Web Summit in Dublin.

“The more successful I am off the pitch, the more successful we are at generating money. The more money we have to spend to guarantee we always have the best players on the pitch. Those two things go hand in hand.

“The flip side of that is the excitement and drama of sport. For the first time in a long time we experienced a disappointing season last year and what we saw was that the engagement level was off the charts when it came to our fans.

“Everything from the decibel levels in the stadium where we were measuring jet engine take off noise level around the big games to that engagement you see here (social media following).

“That stimulation, the uncertainly of sport. If you think about why people watch soap operas, it’s what will happen next. That uncertainly is part of what makes sport exciting.”

Arnold showcased United’s impressive firepower off the pitch at today’s Web Summit in the RDS and he identified five strategies that have made Manchester United the biggest club in the world.

The former Premier League giants boast 639 million fans worldwide with 3.5 billion TV viewers a year making them, as Arnold put it, “the biggest TV show in the world”.

Here are five strategies, in Arnold’s words, that helped United become the biggest club on the planet.


“The first is globalisation. While English is the most popular business language, in terms of engaging with 659,000,000 people in over 200 countries, you do need to speak the local language.”


“We don’t just translate, we have local language journalists and content generators around the world.”


“We have to give the fans a reason to come back to us. We have to make sure that the content we generate, while there are some things we can’t do, we have to make sure the things we can do be complete, be honest, be authoritative so they keep fans coming back to us as their media channel of choice.”


“It has to be optimised to be on the go. While we are on live TV every week in 80 per cent of the world’s homes, the rest of the week is very important for fans to be able to engage constantly wherever they are so we are a mobile first media organisation.”


“Measure what fans like to consume and adjust accordingly.”

The results for Arnold and Manchester United’s strategy speak for themselves.

In the football world, United’s global reach on social media is greater than any other club in the world. They are bigger than Rihanna, bigger than Justin Bieber.

Times are changing at United. It took them just 401 days to reach 3,000,000 followers on Twitter. Interesting to note that that Twitter account only started after the departure of Alex Ferguson.

While the mastermind is no longer pulling the strings on the pitch, United’s future as a business looks to be in safe hands.

Online Editors