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Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 11 November 2014

World's Biggest Sports Club Reveals Digital Strategy

At Web Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland Richard Arnold, MD of Manchester United spoke about their five pillars of social engagement.

Web Summit 2014 by numbers promises a lot.  22,000 attendees, 2,150 start-ups, 700 investors and 603 speakers. It claims to be “where the tech world meets”, however with 22,000 people going through the door the challenge is going to be how to meet the most relevant and valuable people with whom you can collaborate with opposed to 2,000 startups pitching their “revolutionary” idea to you.


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Web Summit’s solution to remaining focused as they have grown from 400 to 22,000 attendees has been to hold more and more focused summits and this has culminated in 2014 with 9 individual summits taking place between the 3rd and 5th of November.


One of the newest and most popular additions to the summit list has been the sports summit. Over recent years digital marketing in sports has exploded with major sports clubs recognising the power of the fan bases that they have accrued and the value of being able to reach fan bases quickly and efficiently.


Sports summit’s first iteration focused on many aspects of technology in sports. The topics of wearables, injury prevention and statistical analytics were all given an audience but by a long shot the topic of fan engagement and insights into the major clubs digital marketing strategy proved to be the most popular and engaging talks of the day.

Richard Arnold, managing director of Manchester United, packed out the sports tent to a level only matched by the draw of celebrities like Rio Ferdinand and Tony Hawk later in the week.

Arnold, not generally known for making public appearances, told the crowd “direct digital media engagement is at the core of what we do and everything that’s important to Manchester United off the pitch going forward”. He then shed light on Manchester United’s 5 pillars of social engagement which they use to engage directly with 110 million fans through their media channels.

·         Localise, United operate their media in 18 languages with journalists who understand the different cultural nuances in each country in which they operate, it is crucial that your content is tailored for your audience

·         Digestible Content, content has to be easy to consume, United ensure all content is mobile first and easy to share ensuring maximum reach with their key demographic of ‘on the go’ fans

·         Platforms, United are on all platforms their fans are on. Arnold admitted they are rarely first to a platform but they ensure they have done their research and make an immediate impact once they do arrive, don’t rush straight onto a platform make sure your research has been done. Don’t forget major platforms operating in international regions i.e. Qzone in China

·         Listen, while engaging with fans the key thing to remember is to listen to what they want. With a wealth of data for every platform available Arnold ensures United, measure and adjust their engagement on an ongoing process

·         Know what you can do and do it well, United cannot provide speculative news on players or club gossip, their media channels exists to provide an honest account of the clubs goings on, make sure you know your target audience and what you or your brand want to be known for


Arnold’s tips on how Manchester United’s digital media strategy operates gives a strong basis for any brand starting their digital media plan and provides a reminder of best practice for all of those currently maintaining their own strategy.

Overall Sports Summit’s debut year proved a definite success pulling in some great speakers covering sports marketing’s most topical issues and with sports digital marketing growing ever more prevalent in the world of elite sports clubs it looks set to be a key topic to watch going forward.

Written by Reggie Murphy of Enterprise Ireland UK.

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