The world’s most expensive footballer Paul Pogba has yet to dazzle for Manchester United on the pitch but executive vice chairman Ed Woodward has already been impressed by the impact the Frenchman has had on the club’s brand.
The former Juventus star’s season to date was encapsulated at the weekend when he and his team were resoundingly beaten by inter-city rivals Manchester City. Some critics rounded on Pogba in the aftermath, questioning whether the player has the ability to justify his £89m world record fee.
Woodward, however, isn’t panicking, pointing to the sheer volume of engagement around the brand the footballer’s arrival has sparked. On a conference call with analysts earlier today (13 September) he rattled off several milestones Pogba has already claimed, all of which the executive will be hoping pushes the club past the record £513m revenue it generated last season.
The announcement of Pogba’s medical generated the highest daily activity ever on our website,” Woodward boasted. It was also the “most retweeted Manchester United post of all time on Twitter”. On Facebook, it was the biggest transfer day signing post, surpassing Bale and Neymar’s moves to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively combined. For Instagram it was the most liked Manchester United post ever published.
With all these numbers in mind, it’s not surprising that brands are eyeing the social media profiles of athletes like Pogba and United are poised to take advantage of that shift. Indeed, the club worked close with sponsor Adidas to maximise the reach of the transfer, something other football bosses will likely study as it becomes more feasible for them to build engagement around their own channels rather than rely on the Premier League or UEFA to do the heavy lifting.
To that end, United is already working with sponsor HCL to build a new site and app. The club has been recently conducted “in-market testing with fans, as well as validation discussions with leading digital organizations such as Google, Apple, OneFootball and MLB,” said Woodward.
The United boss will be hoping the launches help swell the club’s coffers even further as it looks to offset a loss of broadcast and match day revenue in the absence of Champions League. That United has continued to thrive despite the absence of on-pitch success since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 is testament to the depths of the club’s commercial strategy. So much so that Deloitte tips the club to surpass Real Madrid as the world’s richest football club by the end of the year.
"Our club remains at the top of the sport and global interest in football has never been higher," said Woodward.
"Our record Fiscal 2016 financial performance reflects the continued underlying strength of the business and the club is on target to achieve record revenues in 2017, even without a contribution from the Champions League."