Edinburgh PR

by Chris Fairbairn

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

MOMENTOUS PRICETAG REFLECTS EPIC PR DELIVERY

Pogba Adidas TwitterYOU may find it deeply unsettling, or even perverse, but Manchester United spending more than €100million Euros on a young footballer is a marvelous piece of business – and that is before he’s even kicked a heavily branded synthetic ball.

How can this be?

Well it’s all down to the club’s belief in its own PR delivery – reigniting the old brand and driving shirt sales and merchandise.

Believe it or not – and even though this example takes a glimpse into the mad world of elite football – there are real business lessons to be learned.

The Background

Paul Pogba is a product of the Manchester United academy and following a contract wrangle typical of young high level pros, was snatched by Juventus, the top Italian team over the past decade….on a free (some accounts suggest compensation of a few measly million was paid).

From there, his reputation as a raw but potentially ‘complete’ midfielder began to develop, with the young Frenchman blessed with pace, height, power and creativity.

An important detail not to be overlooked is his marketability, and arguably the real reason he commands the extravagant price tag, is that Pogba is as eye-catching on the field for his talent as he is for his distinct appearance, with ever-changing elaborate hair easy to spot it the middle of the park.

As such, Pogba’s brand has developed, soon appearing as the face of Juventus – and eventually as the poster boy of his home nation, France’s, hosting of Euro 2016.

More recently his name has grabbed the headlines, with the transfer saga of the summer being his inevitable move to reunite with the Old Trafford faithful for a likely world record fee.

When this eventually happened – there was widespread outcry and a further flurry of headlines and social media frenzy, suggesting that his ability in no way reflected the exorbitant fee. 

Getting Shirty

Put two carefully managed, powerful brands together and what is the result? Serious shirt sales.

Manchester United’s signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, another significant brand in world football allegedly recouped the red devils a vast portion of £76m in one week with fans rushing to get the Swede’s name on their back.

The global appeal of the Premier League, fueled in part by borderless social media means has been a game-changer. The biggest brands have a serious effect on feverish supporters the world over, who in turn react by spending.

Pogba’s impact on the Manchester United brand and its global appeal and value will be even more substantial.

Suddenly that seemingly insane price tag begins to make a lot more sense.

Collateral Gains

Manchester United are the biggest partner to sportswear giant Adidas.

Paul Pogba, also sponsored by the German firm has recently become their marquee name, the face of Adidas football.

It has been suggested that the German sportswear giant were understandably very keen on his move to Manchester United. The deal is certainly not unfavourable for either party.


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Business lesson: Firms looking to engage in public relations should look to their friends – the fellow firms that contribute to their success. A positive campaign that celebrates both parties can only solidify that bond for future success.

Timing is everything

According to commentators, the eventual confirmation of Pogba’s arrival was delayed until after midnight – handily timed for news outlets in the United States and the Far East – the world’s biggest transfer declared to the biggest global markets.

Not only that, it begs the question as to whether the drawn out nature of the deal was a tactic to ensure the maximum press coverage, hype and excitement across the world.

By phasing the transfer over a period, Manchester United and Pogba became a familiar site on the back pages.

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The unveiling 

The nature of his revelation – in a dark and mysterious shoot with his very own grime artist ‘Stormzy’ MC-ing the whole affair – was a very modern take on the old ‘handshake with the manager followed by a few keepy ups’ that we are more accustomed to seeing.

But it goes to show. Effective visual communications is increasingly important in today’s image conscious society.

Business lesson: The use of video and images has never been so important. Consider the changing media landscape and work with an agency that understands how to reach your target market


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Early data suggests that this huge marketing effort achieved a comparatively large impact. Social media monitoring company Brandwatch reports there have been over 153,000 mentions of the Pogba transfer since it was officially announced.

This compares to 38,000 mentions of Manchester City’s acquisition of John Stones from Everton, which was announced on the same day. Over 12,000 of the Pogba mentions also referred to Stormzy or Adidas – confirming the success of this approach from a brand perspective.

Pogba may not have joined the ranks of Ronaldo and Messi – but in becoming the world’s most expensive ever transfer he demonstrated the Manchester club’s confidence in its media delivery.

Want to maximise the impact of your own very own announcement?

Get in touch with our Edinburgh PR agency – use the handy form below, or if you fancy a good old fashioned natter, call 0131 561 2244

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is a PR account manager with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood Partnership. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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