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Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

By Bob Perry Occasional Paper Series 2005

Number ISSN Number Bob Perry

OP01/05 1464-1747

Principal Lecturer University of Wolverhampton, UK Tel: +44 (0) 1902 323910 Email: [email protected]

Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

Copyright © University of Wolverhampton 2005

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Manchester United: brand of hope and glory


This case study is intended as a basis for class discussion and not intended as an illustration of either good or bad management.


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

The author

Bob Perry Bob Perry is a Principal Lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton Business School. Bob has an MPhil in football management.


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

Brand it like Beckham

During the summer of 2003 the world's press swarmed around Real Madrid's home ground, the Bearnabeu, as a police escort accompanied their newest player through rapturous crowds. This was to be the most extraordinary pre contract medical examination ever. The three-hour event was beamed back live to Japan, and later that week David Beckham's official signing ceremony deliberately coincided with Japanese peak-time viewing. Beckham-mania had hit Spain. Elsewhere in Spain there were thoughts of what might have been. Earlier that month one of Barcelona's presidential candidates, Joan Laporta, was trailing miserably in the opinion polls. Then he hit on the idea of guaranteeing to bring the world's most recognisable footballer, David Beckham, to the club if he was elected. Beckham's club Manchester United accepted a £30million transfer bid, (surprisingly £10million lower than their earlier valuation of the player). Laporta was duly elected president but the player he wanted most had chosen instead the club's most fierce rival Real Madrid. The hype surrounding Beckham's move to Madrid was labelled an undignified circus by critics, but viewed with interest by one unemployed Spaniard. Vicente del Bosque, who had spent 35 years at Real Madrid had recently been released as manager despite getting the team to the semi finals of the European Champions' League. It was believed that he was unenthusiastic towards the possibility of signing Beckham, in contrast to his club president. Beckham himself had supported Manchester United as a boy and played for them since school. Since taking him on, his agent, the company SFX, had seen Beckham become an established first team player, captain of England, celebrity, and the biggest 'brand' in football connecting different audiences from sports, fashion and style. Constantly in the media, some regarded him as too interested in selfpromotion, which was not to United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's liking. Beckham was not chosen for some key games and the unthinkable became apparent, Beckham had to leave the world's biggest club. Beckham had no part in the United/Barcelona discussions, and a rumour arose that he had already signed a pre-contract deal with Madrid negotiated on his behalf by SFX. With few other clubs with the status and financial wherewithal to afford him, and with Beckham determined on a move to Real Madrid, there was only one 'acceptable' buyer. Madrid squeezed the transfer fee down to a maximum of £25million dependent upon meeting conditions (much less than the £46million they paid two years earlier for the French captain, Zinedine Zidane). Barcelona had estimated conservatively that the Beckham 'brand' would bring an additional annual £18million to the club. But Beckham now belonged to Real Madrid and they were quick to maximise the returns on their latest acquisition. Advertising revenue from the signing ceremony alone raised £2million, and pre-orders for the number 23 Beckham replica shirt were estimated at £2 million, (8,000 were sold on the first day of trading). Even the choice of squad number was calculated, one the few sportsmen to commercially transcended the game he played once wore number 23; basketball's Michael Jordon. Beckham's ability to sell more replica shirts and merchandise than any other footballer, especially in the Far East, was undisputed. Madrid hoped to break into the Asian market with Beckhman's help and analysts felt that the outlay in getting Beckham could be recouped within four years comfortably (after the 2002 World Cup, 30 Japanese companies approached Beckham to make television advertisements. It is claimed that one, a chocolate manufacturer, paid £2million for a day's filming with Beckham and doubled its sales in the process. A Thailand marketing survey suggested that 80% of its people would be more likely to use its products if Beckham endorsed them). Apart from getting one of the most talented players in the world, Madrid had put together a tightly constructed business deal. In line with club policy, Beckham agreed to sign over 50% of his image rights and new personal sponsorship deals (the club argued that by merely wearing a Madrid shirt,


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

Beckham's earnings could increase ten fold). Even Beckham's personal terms (a four-year contract worth £18million) represented a slight pay cut for him.

Manchester United: super club

Manchester United were renowned for their business acumen, so had they been out manoeuvred on this occasion? The reigning English Champions (for the 8th. time in 11 years) appeared happy with the deal; Beckham had after all cost nothing to sign and had given them several years' good service. Sir Alex Ferguson's position and power as manager was considerably greater than that of his Madrid counterpart. Ferguson was responsible for all football matters and once he decided that Beckham should be sold the board of directors supported him. Asked about the loss of the Beckham on merchandising income, a spokesperson pointed to the fact that 'Van Nistelrooy' not 'Beckham' shirts were the club's best sellers. Further, the chief executive made clear that dealings in players was for football reasons alone, using players to exploit particular markets would be 'cheating the fans'. The club may have lost a component of their brand but still had a strong squad of players and boasted equally impressive financial credentials to make them the world's largest club. United claimed they could generate £100million in revenue 'before a ball is kicked' and financial performance reflected fast growth increasing profitability for their shareholders (see figure 1 below).

Manchester United turnover

200 150 £millions 100 50 0 87.9 87.9 110.7 116 130 146.1 173 Pre-tax profit Expenditure

1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Figure 1. Manchester United annual growth

Table 1. Manchester United's financial performance Financial indicator Group turnover tax profit Earnings per share Basic dividend per share Special dividend per share pence) Wages to turnover ratio (%) Analysis of turnover: Match day Media Commercial (Financial year to 31 July) Source: All information extracted from Manchester United plc Annual Reports


2002 £m Pre146.1 32.3 9.6p 2.1p 1.0p 34

2003 £m 173 39.3 11.5p 2.5p 1.5p 46

Annual increase 18 22 20 19 50 12

Five year increase 97 41


38 36 26 100

41 32 27 100


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

At the height of the stock market boom in March 2000, with the share price standing at 402p the stock market valuation had reached the 'magical' milestone of £1billion. Inevitably with a stock market cooling the share price had fallen away. By October 2003 the club's shares were trading at two-year high of 200p as United reported an impressive 22% increase in pre tax profits of £39.3million. Shareholders may have expected more but still received an increased basic dividend of 2.5p per share (the 12th consecutive annual increase), plus a special dividend thanks in part to strong operating results. Overall the financial performance was hugely impressive against a background of a recession in the football industry. Turnover for 2003 had reached a record £173million meaning that the club had nearly doubled in size over a five year period. The debt free balance sheet showed a massive bank and cash position of £28.6million and United had invested over £4million in capital projects. On the playing side rewards for their players were huge and although payroll costs increased by £8.7million during the year they still only represented a cautious 46% of turnover. The club made clear it intended to use profits from player sales to strengthen the playing squad still further in the future. Manchester United had a set-up many aspired to and a unique brand upon which to trade.

Manchester United's transformation

United's transformation from provincial English football club to global brand makes for interesting reading. In terms of the club's pedigree, the 1960s had marked a pinnacle, when under the ownership of Louis Edwards and the management of Sir Matt Busby United became the first English team to win the European Cup in 1968. The team of that era was packed with exciting world stars such as Charlton, Best and Law. Edwards became a director in 1958 (the same year as the Munich air disaster) and presided over a remarkable recovery. The disaster had meant death and injury to several of the clubs and country's best players but the dogged determination to continue to compete at the very highest level of international football had attracted many admirers some far outside the Manchester region. In 1980 Louis' son Martin 'inherited' the club, but the mid 1980s signalled a period of mediocrity for Manchester United, just one of several slumbering giants failing to recapture past playing glories and unable to compete in European competition (the Heysel stadium disaster led to a ban on all English clubs). By 1989 Martin was ready to sell his majority shareholding in the club for £10million to Michael Knighton. Resistance from fellow directors and a failure by Knighton to attract sufficient financial backing meant the take-over was aborted. Two years later, the club was floated on the stock exchange at a price of 32p per share and with a valuation of £40million. Further share issues followed in 1994 and 1997, with Edwards accumulating £71milion for shares he sold, so reducing his stake in the club. By 1997 Manchester United had become the world's wealthiest club, exceeding the turnover of others by some distance, and Edwards' wealth had grown accordingly1. In September 1998 the board announced that they had received an offer of £623 million from BSkyB - the satellite broadcasting company (in which Rupert Murdoch's News International had a 40% stake). They unanimously recommended that shareholders accept the bid. When the news of these negotiations leaked out there was an uprising of indignation from supporters and others who felt that the club should not fall into the hands of a media empire. There were concerns that media ownership would ruin the football club as they had known and loved it for generations. In an open joint letter from BSkyB and Edwards, appreciation was expressed that football was not just another business but was 'part of the cultural fabric of Manchester and the nation'. The letter also said that the acquisition would create one of the great partnerships in sport. In April 1999, the Government blocked the plan, ruling the proposal against the public interest.


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

Speculation concerning the formation of a fully constituted European super league involving leading clubs leaving their national leagues emerged about the same time. A cash rich proposal by Italianbased company Media Partners was given advanced consideration by Europe's most powerful clubs, including United. This was a clear threat not only to the quality of national league football but also to UEFA (the European football body), who had always organised the European Cup/Champions' League competition. UEFA managed to avert the proposed development by offering major concessions to clubs through a doubling the Champions League to 32 clubs. More matches meant greater revenue and UEFA had now directed £330million to Europe's richest clubs. Unsurprisingly, this was not the end of the matter. UEFA continued to face demands from the big clubs for more money and power, backed by the ultimate threat of a breakaway. The so called G14 clubs2 formed following the Media Partners talks continued to meet periodically and collectively pressed for more concessions. The clubs believed they could obtain more for the Europe-wide television rights without UEFA. Also on the agenda was the distribution of existing money, and the frustrations of having to release key players for international duty. Manchester United stayed well briefed on such developments thanks to their Chief Executive acting as the G-14 vice president. Financial accounts for 2003 revealed that for United competing in the UEFA Champions' League brought them £28million as compared with £8.5million from the domestic FA Cup.

The new ethos

Some resented the way in which the traditionally working-class game had evolved. Subdued and seated, corporate guests watched the spectacle at the expense of standing chanting males supporting their team. United were at the forefront of the change with an expanding list of commercial partners and corporate sponsors and a more business like approach. United no longer represented Manchester in the same way, some supporters travelled from far and wide for home games and the club was owned by big business. Then there was the issue of constantly changing replica kit, which caused some considerable resentment amongst parents of young fans who felt pressured into spending large amounts (a television programme once revealed that replica kits often had a mark-up was as high as 200%). Shirt sales were however very lucrative and thanks to a tie-up with Nike, United can expect to sell 2.5 million replica shirts worldwide every year.

"Football clubs are marketing brands, not teams..... it is no longer a case of doing well on the pitch; the more merchandise you sell the better" - A Real Madrid spokesperson at the time of the Beckham transfer "Famous players after all come and go" - A Manchester United director at the time of the Beckham transfer "Running a football club is easy; all you've got to do is to make enough profit year after year to do three things: develop your team, develop your stadium, and - if you're a quoted company - to pay a dividend. If you can do all these things, year on year, then life is good" - Former Manchester United Finance Director "Football used to be about glory, romance, loyalty and the national game, and no about exploitation and multinational corporations. But that is exactly what Manchester United is" - A journalist "We strive to ensure that shareholders, loyal supporters, customers and key commercial partners alike benefit from our performance" - Extracted from a Manchester United plc Annual Report Figure 2. Some interesting quotations

Despite the misgivings of traditionalists, United showed no signs of shifting direction. Peter Kenyon was appointment Deputy Chief Executive in May 1997 with a brief to broadening United's supporter base. For United, the commercial logic was faultless: the greater the support, the greater the potential to sell club merchandise. A former sportswear company chief executive for Umbro International, Kenyon championed a clinical brand marketing campaign. As if to prove they had a warmer side too, during 2000 United established a partnership to raise £1million for Unicef, the United Nations children's fund. The tie-up was perceived as fitting the ethos 8

Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

of Manchester United as reaching out to 'global children'. This involved visits by players and officials to some of the poorest communities in the world including Inner Mongolia, Brazil and Uganda where they encountered some families surviving on less than £200 a year. Thanks to links with Trafford Borough Council local school children and disabled groups make use of some of the facilities at the clubs breath-taking training centre. In August 2000 Kenyon succeeded Edwards as Chief Executive. Edwards, was not always at one with the manager Sir Alex Ferguson and was unpopular with the fans for his attempts to sell the club. Kenyon promised a more communicative people centred change of style and made great play of his loyalty to the club as local boy made good and supporter of long standing. Kenyon's strategy rested on four areas: · · · · Success on the pitch Developing media rights both in terms content and ownership Developing the international brand Turning more fans into customers.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson's continued management the club achieved outstanding on-field successes in the FA Cup, Premiership and the Champions League. The so called Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford, had been the club's ground since 1910, but now thanks to capital investment had increased its capacity to 67,500 (the largest in Britain) and developed a club museum. Despite sell-out crowds and a waiting list for season tickets, the club attempted to 'peg' admission prices and of twenty Premiership clubs only six charged less. The ground hosted not only home games but also European finals, internationals, and pop concerts. United became a magnet for tourists to Manchester and accents as diverse as Scandinavian, Australian or Chinese could now be heard asking for directions to the Museum. Despite the increased revenue from Old Trafford United had become less dependent upon gate receipts alone. Merchandising and related activities had expanded rapidly with over 1,500 items in the on-site Megastore shop and hundreds of outlets throughout the world (in March 2000 a 15,000square-foot store and internet-related Red Café in the heart of Asia). There was Manchester United mail order and a deal with BSkyB saw the launch of Manchester United satellite channel (MUTV). October 2000 saw the premiere of the feature length movie Manchester United: Beyond the Promised Lan" another portfolio item along with Manchester United Insurance credit cards, savings accounts, hotel and leisure facilities, and weddings at the ground. The Red Cinema was launched in August 2003 in nearby Salford Quays. Data analysis using United's Customer Relationship Management System allowed them to build buying profiles of the 1.9 million UK members. A target of achieving a database of 3.5 million fan details by 2006 was set. Even this represented the tip of the iceberg, a commissioned survey of the supporter base calculated over 40 million people worldwide and growing. For organisations wishing to associate themselves with Manchester United, sponsorship did not come cheaply. Vodafone paid £30 million for a four-year deal for the privilege of shirt sponsorship. United's marketing drive particularly into so-called 'new media', continued unabated. Future investment plans were well advanced in new-media technology, principally the internet and mobile telephone potential. United's strategy had been enter robust business partnerships and harnessing the benefits of new technology. The official web site was launched in August 1998, with a modest number of hits a month initially recorded. By the time the site was re-launched in July 2002 it was achieving a staggering 600,00 unique visitors per month. The club were said to be looking forward to the possibilities of relaying matches live across the globe using the site as a platform.


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

Recent developments

The early years of the new century saw football in something of a recession. Now less popular with investors, television companies felt that they had over paid in the past for coverage and looked to renegotiate less generous deals. Meanwhile, top players and their agents continued to press for large financial personal rewards from the game when previously transfer fees between clubs had lead to a circulation of money within the game. Some clubs meanwhile had been destabilised financially through spending a dangerous proportion of their turnover on players' costs in a quest to compete with the top clubs such as United. This growing financial rift between the top few clubs and the rest dismayed smaller clubs in the English Football League, many of whom were struggling to survive. One club chairman remarked: Matches can be rescheduled at short notice to suit satellite stations and their exclusive audiences. There is a disregard for the little clubs. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is too great. Manchester United is now marketed as the national team - which has taken it away from its roots and its local community. Football should be a love affair otherwise you are just a business. The big clubs have forgotten their roots and are isolating themselves. There were also concerns that not enough money was recycled to schools and junior football - from where the next generation of players would come. Despite these concerns and the perilous state of some clubs' finances, Manchester United appeared to grow stronger, exhibiting awesome negotiating 'muscle'. A long-term deal with Nike in 2002 guaranteed £303million over 13 years in a 50/50 partnership whereby kit could be accessed in over 60 countries worldwide. United also announced a unique marketing alliance with the world's wealthiest baseball team the New York Yankees. This involved agreement on shared market information, joint sponsorship and promotional programs and the sale of goods. United now used the Yankees' huge merchandising network to target the elusive North American market (United concede that their players might be mobbed in Kuala Lumpur but could be unknown in the States). In January 2003 it was announced that delayed television coverage of games featuring United would be screened on the Yankees' club channel network reaching 5million New Yorkers (in return, the Yankees got access to Europe and the Far East). United's involvement in a summer tournament in the USA during 2003 was broadcast live on MUTV channel, whilst building on the North American fan base and partner relationships. In April 2003 Kenyon announced that in future the club intended to develop and control its own media rights by getting back the content of collectively negotiated TV deals. On the playing side, contracted players continued to benefit from the best training facilities money could buy at the purpose built multi million pound Trafford Training Centre, Carrington set in 70 acres. Potentially they could also enjoy huge salaries. Six of the top ten Sunday Times top earners from UK football in 2002 were on Manchester United's payroll. The club was better placed than any to pay the top dollar in terms of transfer fees and wage demands and at the same time keep operating expenses within their safety ceiling of 50% of revenues. Juan Sebastian Veron (£28million), Ruud van Nistelrooy (£19million) and Rio Ferdinand (£30million) all represented big money buys during 2001 and 2002. The first team itself represented a combination of big money buys and players who have progressed through thanks to the club's youth policy, and the average age of the talented professional playing staff was a youthful 25 years old. United, like others, were relieved that approvals of plans to further modify the transfer system in accordance with European Union law were modest. The European Commission had expressed concern that by tying players to clubs the transfer system restricts players' freedom of movement hence the need for some reform. The UEFA /Fifa the game's two leading governing bodies responded by outlining a plan including new type of playing contract, protection of 'poaching' of players by other


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

clubs, and compensation for clubs for developing young players. United could continue to buy new players and keep them contracted to the club. An FA ruling that a club cannot sign players under the age of 16 unless they live within a 90-minute drive of that club could have proved a hindrance. Instead United set about developing links with clubs elsewhere in the country including First Division Walsall in England and Newport in Wales. In addition United have a number of feeder clubs abroad including Paramatta Eagles in Australia, Royal Antwerp (Belgium), Oslo Ost (Norway), Shelbourne (Ireland) Brommapojkarna (Sweden) with other discussions on going.

Factors influencing United's future

Financial analysts believed that the club has only exploited the more obvious income streams and more lucrative yet areas offered themselves. This was likely to grow still further particularly in countries late to embrace the game. North America has yet to acknowledge football in the same way that the rest of the world does with distractions of baseball, American football and netball. Similarly, a market of an estimated 20million potential Chinese customers, accustomed to a diet of the Premiership on television had yet to be exploited. According to private research the United brand has 79% 'name awareness' in China. The challenge lies in conversing this potential into revenue flows. In December 2002 Edwards stepped down as chairman of Manchester United (later in June 2003 he was appointed president). Of greater surprise was the resignation of Chief Executive Peter Kenyon in September 2003. Kenyon was rumoured to been lured away by a huge financial package from Premiership rivals Chelsea. Fuelled by the billion pound fortune of new owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea soon spent £100million in transfer fees to improve their team's competitiveness now apparently they also sought to emulate United's off the field success and needed Kenyon's managerial talent. Kenyon's replacement was managing director David Gill. Various key questions relating to United's future readily arise including: · · Would United's commercial operations suffer as a result of Kenyon's departure? Would predators eye United's cash rich position and seek to gain ownership possibly with the intention of diluting the current emphasis on investing on the playing side of the business?

The frantic pace of change in the global sport, leisure and entertainment industries continued throughout the 1990s. Manchester United perhaps epitomized this change more than most. With other clubs over stretching themselves, United remained hugely impressive both on and off the field. Now in a new decade, and even with the loss of key figures, they were better placed to balance their responsibilities both as a football club and as an organisation with shareholder responsibilities, but were they getting that balance right?


1. 2. In 2002 The Sunday Times named 53 people who were top earners from the UK football industry with Edwards by far the biggest earner thanks to still more shares The G14 Europe's most powerful clubs originally comprised (highest turnover first): Manchester United (England); Real Madrid (Spain); Bayern Munich (Germany); Juventus (Italy); Barcelona (Spain); AC Milan, Internazionale (both Italy); Liverpool (England); Borussia Dortmund (Germany); Paris St-Germain (France); PSV Eindhoven , Ajax (both Holland); Marseilles (France); and Porto (Portugal). Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Olympique Lyonnais and Valencia joined this group in September 2002.


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory


1. Do you feel that the various aspects of corporate governance are appropriate for a football club? What changes in governance would you like to see? (Note that Johnson & Scholes (2002 p.195) define the governance framework as a description of "whom the organisation is there to serve and how the purposes and priorities of the organisation should be decided" this embraces ownership, management, shareholders, rights of stakeholders and relationship with customers and clients, forms of ownership, disclosure of information, etc.). 2. Unsing Mendelow's power/interest matrix undertake a stakeholder mapping exercise for any strategic development that is likely to be under consideration by the board (for example, `the formation of a European super league of major clubs'). How would you use this analysis if you were: a. a board member wishing to support the strategy? b. an opponent of the strategy? 3. Johnson & Scholes (2002) identify four possible ethical stances for an organisation: short term shareholder interests, longer term shareholder interests, multiple stakeholder obligations and shaper of society. Decide which ethical stance you feel best describes Manchester United now and how you would wish to see the club. Justify your own position. 4. Decide what you feel were the key cultural characteristics of Manchester United in terms of values, beliefs and taken-for-granted assumptions: a. pre-1990, and b. today? What are the implications of these changes to current and future strategies? 5. If you were allowed to write a short mission statement for Manchester United, what would it be? Does it properly reflect your answers to the questions above?

Other Questions

5. How organisationally has Manchester United aligned itself to external environmental factors? Identify key opportunities commenting on how well placed United is to maximise them and major threats and their significance to the plc. 6. Analyse the intensity of competition, commenting specifically upon: In which market(s) United operate? · · · On what basis are they competing, and which strategies present themselves? Who are their competitors? How sustainable is corporate growth?

5. Consider the role of football within the plc. Does it matters whether Manchester United continue to win matches, whether they have a dip in form and are relegated, or indeed if they need to play football at all! 6. In terms of United's external environment how free are they to operate as they please? Who are regulatory bodies, and what dilemmas do they face?


Conn, D. (2000) Europe's richest clubs launch power play The Independent 14th September. Curry, S. (2000) Netting a billion Sunday Times 12th March. Hawkey, I (2000) Transfers face shake-up Sunday Times 29th October. Hunt, J. (2003) He knows the score but still sold Beckham Sunday Express 6th July.


Manchester United: brand of hope and glory

Otway, G. (1999) Gold Trafford expanding to cash in on the dream Sunday Times 30th May. Rich, T. (2003) Real cash in by beaming Beckham's medical to Japan Independent 1st July. Rich, T. (2003) Why £25m for David Beckham plc could be Real steal Independent 19th June. Rowley, J. (2000) Can Man U save the world? Sunday Times 6th August. Walker M (2003) Real take half of Beckham's private deals The Guardian 19th June. White J. (2003) Transfer tied up 'weeks ago' The Guardian 19th June. Soccer investor weekly (various issues) Company annual financial reports Other corporate data (including ) Industry data e.g. Deloitte and Touche's football analysis ( Financial media Sports media Television programmes Without Walls, Channel 4, 1995 and Panorama, BBC, December 1997



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