Manchester United will open three new experience and entertainment centres in China by 2020 to tap into its Chinese fanbase.
The centres, which will be based in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenyang, is being built with the help of Chinese real estate group Harves, and will include restaurants and its retail stores, according to The Financial Times.
United is the most influential football team online in the country according to the 2017 Red Card Report, an annual report created by China-based digital consultancy Mailman.
The club has previously bolstered its investment in Chinese digital channels, flew its entire team and a staff of 130 people to China for its Tour 2016 event and signed a major broadcast deal with Chinese online sports platform Sina Sports.
It also recently announced that engagement on its owned media has dramatically increased following the hiring of caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with more Facebook, Instagram and Twitter engagements than any other club in the world, coming in at 55 million.
The club hopes these new venues will become a travel and leisure destination for fans to gather, dine, shop and watch its games, similar to fellow Premier League club Arsenal’s Club Shanghai, which opened at the Lyceum Building on the Bund in Shanghai in 2018.
“The entertainment centres will offer a place for fans to go and have that shared experience,” said Richard Arnold, the managing director of Manchester United told The South China Morning Post.
“So much about supporting Manchester United is about togetherness – togetherness of the fans and togetherness of the team. Having a location where everyone goes is really important. The technology and what that offers and how it operates in terms of providing an authentically engaging sense of what it’s like to be at Old Trafford or at the game is going to be interesting. And the chance to do things as a family, to eat or shop together, is exciting.”
The Drum recently spoke to United’s arch-rivals Manchester City chief marketing officer Nuria Tarre about becoming the first Premier League club to launch a Fifa Online team in China in 2018.