Wednesday 18 September 2019

United promise global stardom to lure football's top stars

Twitter data used to show how players' earnings rocket

Radamel Falcao is among those who are earning huge money on the back of Manchester United's global appeal. Photo credit: Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images
Radamel Falcao is among those who are earning huge money on the back of Manchester United's global appeal. Photo credit: Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images

Mark Ogden

Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria completed their recent transfers to Manchester United after being shown the club’s blueprint for transforming them into global superstars.

In an attempt to make Old Trafford the No1 destination for leading players, United are utilising the strength of the club’s commercial operation and the team’s worldwide popularity to sell the prospect of new signings being elevated into the top echelon of marketability simply by wearing the red shirt.

Daley Blind, the £13.8m signing from Ajax, has seen his Twitter following increase by 72 per cent since arriving on August 30, with his daily-followers rate up a staggering 5,336 per cent during the same period.

Similar leaps in recognition and visibility experienced by the likes of Robin van Persie and Juan Mata -following their moves to Old Trafford are now used as proof of United’s ability to create their own brand of galactico in Manchester.

Statistical analysis and commercial data amassed by the club highlights United’s ability to propel its players into a new stratosphere of earning potential off the pitch and the numbers are now part of a presentation given to transfer targets and their advisers in an effort to convey what the club believe is their unique ability to turn leading players into the most recognisable footballers in the world.

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“A player will always sign for Manchester United, first and foremost, because it is Manchester United,” claimed a representative of one first-team player at Old Trafford. “But is the club’s commercial power part of the attraction? Absolutely.

“Players and their advisers know that, by playing for United, doors are thrown open when it comes to sponsorships and incentives, such as boot deals.”

To underline the appeal to a sponsor of being attached to a United player, one senior executive at the club pointed to a recent signing securing a twelvefold financial increase on his boot deal within days of completing his move.

With rivals such as Chelsea exploiting their London base as the carrot for players mulling over the prospect of a move to the Premier League, United believe that their vast global following and the determination of companies worldwide to be attached to the club enables them to offer a unique incentive for players to move to the North West.

When commercial director Richard Arnold spoke two years ago of the club viewing the playing squad as being “25 George Clooneys”, it was a statement based on United’s presence in the living rooms of supporters in all four corners of the globe.

“Our games are shown in 1.1billion homes across the globe and you think, ‘Which film does that 60 times a year?’” Arnold said. “Be it George Clooney or Brad Pitt, what is there where that is shown? There just isn’t anything like it.”

When Aon launched its sponsorship with United in June 2011, hits to the company’s website increased by 150 per cent, with traffic up as much as 500 per cent on match-days.

On the day of Falcao’s loan transfer to United from AS Monaco last month, Google recorded an increase of 909 per cent on searches for the Colombian in comparison to the day of his move to the French club from Atletico Madrid in 2013.

And there was an even greater spike in interest following the £59.7m signing of Di Maria from Real Madrid, with Google searches up by 1,111 per cent on the day he completed his move to the Bernabeu from Benfica in 2010.

Van Persie, one of the leading players in the country during his time at Arsenal, has topped the Premier League shirt sales chart in each of his two seasons at United, yet he failed to make the top five in any year during his eight years at the Emirates.

Mata, a £37.1m signing from Chelsea in January, entered the shirt sale top 10 for the first time following his move from Stamford Bridge and, during the 2013-14 campaign, United players accounted for 40 per cent of the top 10 global shirt sales.

Wayne Rooney, recognised by Repucom as the most marketable English footballer in the world, signed a five-year contract at United in February on the same £250,000-a-week basic salary of his previous deal.

But the England captain also negotiated an “x-factor” element in his contract, with the club agreeing to place its commercial team at Rooney’s disposal to enable him to secure lucrative personal endorsements on the back of United’s global pull.

It is a pull that sees United account for 51 per cent of the Premier League’s worldwide television audience, claim 58 million followers on Facebook and why over £300m is generated for the club’s commercial partners through press coverage alone.

United are now playing the same numbers game to win the race for new signings.  (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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