Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alacantara and Gareth Bale – these are but a few names that turned down a move to Manchester United after the club lifted its 20th English title – 11 points ahead of second place, Manchester City. Stars Angel di Maria, Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera and Radamel Falcao – all of them joined United in the transfer marked that followed the club’s most disastrous season since 1992. How did chief executive Ed Woodward clinch these mercurial signings on the back of a poor season? That has been attributed to off-field matters as opposed to on-the-greens.
United may have had a torrid 2012/13 campaign, however, that has done little to deter their global brand. Over the last two decades, the club has grown from strength to strength on the field, epitomised by their treble of 1999 as well as recent league triumphs during the tail end of the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Now a club in transition, the hierarchy – in a bid to make the Theatre of Dreams a desired destination once again – have capitalised on the might of the club’s commercial operation along with the popularity of the team to provide lip-licking add-ons for players. But how? That’s the easy part; by donning the red jersey.
In 2013, through a survey carried out, the club announced its official global fan base of 659 million fans; a fraction over a tenth of the entire world population. And a followership tantamount to a religious faith further enhances the image of the club, culminating into astronomical popularity and commercial gains.
When Aon launched its sponsorship with the club in June 2013, the company’s hit counter on their website increased over 150%, with traffic trampolining up to as much as 500% on match-days.
Manchester United’s summer Dutch signing for a reported fee of £13.8 million, Blind saw his Twitter following increase by 72% since arriving at Old Trafford on August 30. His daily followers went up an astounding 5,336% during the same period.
Google counters too felt the effect of United’s purchases. During United’s pursuit of Di Maria, there was a great spike in interest following his £59.7 million move; Google searches went up by 1,111% compared to when he completed his move to Real Madrid from Benfica in 2010. Meanwhile, on the day Falcao moved to United from AS Monaco, Google recorded an increase of 909% on searches for the Colombian. This was a stark comparison to the day of he moved from the French club to Atletico Madrid in 2013.
In terms of shirts sales, United racks in millions as well. Robin van Persie, a lethal striker who blossomed in the later years of his career at Arsenal, topped the Premier League shirt sales chart in each of his two seasons at United. The Dutchman failed to make the top five in any year during his eight years at the Emirates. Juan Mata – a £37.1 million signing from Chelsea – entered the shirt sale top 10 for the first time following his move from Stamford Bridge.
And the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Currently, United account for 51% of the league’s entire worldwide television audience and accumulates over £300 million through press coverage alone. On the back of a successful £750 million kit deal, United need not be the best on the pitch to attract galaticos to the side..
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