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Manchester City reveals blueprint for digital success

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By Cameron Clarke, Editor

January 20, 2012 | 3 min read

Manchester City may be the wealthiest football club in the world but its marketing budget is far from limitless according to head of digital Richard Ayres.

In fact City’s digital honcho told The Drum that “it is one of the smallest budgets I’ve ever had, certainly in 10 years”.

In an interview published in today’s edition of The Drum magazine, Ayres said: “Everybody always assumes you must be rolling in it, but I point out that the money goes towards football and not the digital team.”

Despite not having the bottomless pit of cash many would expect, Ayres still plans to roll out “9 or 10” new digital products this year.

While these products are a closely-guarded secret for the time being, Ayres did shed light on some of the ambitious plans the club has to engage with fans.

One thing he hopes to do is give them access to some of the data used by the club’s performance analysis team, which measures the efforts of players for the benefit of manager Roberto Mancini.

“I’ve banged on a lot about ‘datatainment’, which is a horrible word and I apologise,” Ayres said. “But it is really powerful.

“When the team sheet comes out, what you want is to know the background – when was the last time [Mancini] played those players in that system and what was the success rate?

“But rather than just having that in bars and charts and geeky reams of stats, imagine having that in glorious playful technicolour on an iPad; an app where you could put a player in, take a player out, change the weather conditions and see different match day predictions based on previous performances.”

So that fans inside and around City’s stadium could benefit from such a service, the club is looking into making free wifi available to matchgoers.

“We’re having a range of conversations with network suppliers, wifi companies, hardware manufacturers – the whole gamut,” Ayres said.

And while the club hunts for a wifi partner, Ayres said the digital team would be aiming to make the most of the other commercial partnerships City already enjoys with the likes of EA Sports and Etihad.

“So with Etihad for instance – our principal sponsor – we’ll be putting a flight booking engine onto the site which will give special deals to our members.

“It really does feel like 2011 has been getting some strategy in place and trying some stuff. 2012 is the one where we really start building it, and start rolling out the products and engaging the fans.

"My target is to, within two years, build a market leading capability to engage a global fanbase."

You can read a full interview with Ayres, and City's head of marketing Julian Pate, in the new edition of The Drum magazine, published today. Subscribers can read the piece online here.

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