A winning team

By The Drum, Administrator

April 13, 2007 | 5 min read

Client: FC united

Project: FC united sponsorship material



FC United of Manchester burst on to the football pitch in July 2005 after the takeover of Manchester United by American billionaire Malcolm Glazer. Fuelled by passionate football fans, FC United grabbed the attention of the world’s media, were voted Non-league Club of the Year in the National Game Awards and won the league, all in the first year. Celebrating each game with a carnival atmosphere and with the backing of over 6,000 supporters, the club asked Manchester marketing and advertising agency C21 to create sponsorship material that would help secure them suitable commercial partnerships.

The commission came after The Drum ran a feature asking agencies to submit creative ideas on how they would market FC United. The club is a dream client for many agencies.

C21’s relationship with the football club developed when FC United recognised the agency’s immediate grasp of their unique ethos and felt there was natural synergy with C21’s creative yet practical approach. Andy Walsh, general manager of FC United says: “We’ve been approached by other creative agencies that were eager to work with us, but it never felt right. C21 were recommended to us and, when we met, it was clear that they understood our core philosophy straight away.”

The Brief:

The basis of the brief was to develop an advertising/promotional campaign, effective sponsorship pack, relevant tag lines and additional promotional activity that would attract compatible investors.

FCUM’s objectives for the creative were clear; to establish the FCUM philosophy and build awareness; to present a consistent and professional image; to attract greater and ever-increasing membership; encourage interest in and deliver sponsorship; develop and foster excellent community relationships

Although they were looking for investors, FC United was aware that supporters and the media might see a call for sponsorship as the club changing their beliefs and being more interested in financial gain, instead of the game. FCUM was adamant that the crooks of the material had to tell their story and emphasize the true reason for the club’s existence – to bring football back to the fans.

FCUM is a not for profit organization that is run democratically in a ‘one member, one vote’ basis. The club board is elected by and answerable to FCUM members and must operate for the benefit of the community it serves.

FC United was looking for commercial partners willing to sponsor the next stage in the club’s development.

Unlike the Premiership clubs, FC United wanted to attract sponsorship from local SMEs, schools and community groups as well as blue chip organisations. So, it was important that the material produced spoke to investors’ right across the board.

Creative Solution

C21 created a sponsorship and media pack that communicates the unique situation of FC United - a fledgling club, at the bottom of the football league ladder, enjoying a fan base 30 times larger than their competing teams and taking their first tentative steps under the spotlight of the world’s media. Christina Clarke, C21’s managing director is delighted with the creative. “Most agencies want FC United on their client list,” she says. “They’ve received some outstanding publicity in the last 12 months but their feet are firmly on the ground. The literature we designed clearly expresses their distinct culture.”

With such a diverse target audience to cater for, C21 kept the style, and design of the literature direct and simple. The tone of the copy is friendly and speaks volumes about the success of the club. FCUM’s success is further emphasized with the use of bold clear hero statements and quotes, one in particular from legendary player Eric Cantona.

Potential sponsors of the club, no matter what their background can pick up the material and learn the key points of the club with just a glance.

C21 used a strong mix of images portraying shots of players and crowds celebrating alongside each other, mingled with shots of young children and families all supporting the same team. ”We used some great imagery,” explains Clarke. “One in particular is of an old rattle from the 1950s that belonged to a supporter’s grandad. It really tells the story of football past and present and what it means to fans and their families.”

The old football rattle was used as a metaphor for what the club stands for.

Evaluation and results:

C21 worked closely with club management to create a philosophy that reflected the collective spirit and community focused nature of the team. The passion of the club, with its grassroots approach, was rewarded last year with their first league success, and brings football back to the fans and supporting communities according to FCUM’s Walsh.

The promotional literature produced has helped deliver twice the sponsorship revenue for last season with Williams BMW as the main FC United Sponsor for 2006/2007. Over 30 other companies are supporting the team, with countless others expressing interest in sponsoring it.

C21 are now working with the club to develop a three-year communications strategy and a future vision.


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