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City Football groups fan engagement strategies


Manchester City owners The City Football Group have been at the forefront of embracing and utilising the latest innovations and technology. With a global network of ten clubs spanning five continents, the Abu Dhabi owned holding company has come to represent something closer to an entertainment business than a sporting business.

Premier League giants Manchester City in particular have been in the spotlight when it comes to embracing newer fan engagement strategies and innovations. The English club is armed with an extensive social media presence and a self developed Over the Top platform which was launched in 2019. The club is looking to expand its digital footprint globally hence they have employed newer strategies to achieve those objectives.

City Football Group’s chief marketing and fan experience officer Nuria Tarre had offered some insight into the group’s current fan engagement strategies particularly in relation to Manchester City.

Fan engagement strategies during Covid 19

The emergence of the pandemic disrupted the normal functioning of many businesses around the world particularly the football industry, with matches played behind closed doors clubs had to reanalyze their fan engagement strategies however Nuria believed CFG’s approach was well positioned despite the presence of the pandemic.

“As a group we embrace innovation,” she states. “We embrace technology, we embrace change – a lot of change. Technology has already been part of what we’ve been doing on and off the pitch. Clearly, the pandemic has accelerated the use of that technology for many reasons.”

The pandemic posed a lot of challenges and one of the challenges was for the creative team to gather footage to produce content keeping in mind the necessity to follow the social distancing norm.

“We couldn’t get close to the talent, our players,” Tarre explains, before listing off a number of technologies which the team relied on to create new content. The creative team started gathering footage with the help of drones, remote cameras and body cameras. This kind of technology wasn’t new to the team however it played an instrumental role in helping them produce content.

Tarre had also highlighted a few key achievements during the pandemic, she focused on two key areas. The first one was the club devising the right social media strategy that focused on community management.

The second one was the launch of a live matchday show which was distributed across all of City’s social media platforms. The program was successful in bringing the fans closer to the club and the proper execution of it recaptured some of the matchday spirits that was missing during the games.

“In football and in sports in general, matchday is the rhythm of our engagement with our fans,” Terre says. “And because [for] obvious reasons fans couldn’t be in the stadiums, we decided to dial up that moment of a matchday. We started doing a live matchday show because we thought through the pandemic it was the right thing to do to keep our fans engaged.

“But it’s been so successful – we got, on average, a million views per show – that we decided to keep it post-pandemic.”

The creation of authentic content for fan engagement

The club’s move to produce behind the scene documentaries sheds light on the club’s current content creation strategy. All or Nothing was the first documentary produced that featured Manchester City, the popular Amazon series gave a panoramic insight into the drama both on and off the pitch during the club’s title-winning 2017/2018 Premier League season.

This documentary highlighted the club’s ambition to create and deliver many more documentaries. The recent documentary to have been produced is a feature film released in August which focuses on the final 46 days on the pandemic hit 2020/2021 campaign in which the club won the league and reached the UEFA Champions League final. This film was first released on the club’s OTT service before being distributed on other social media platforms.

“Part of our content strategy is to keep thinking about stories that will authentically engage with our audiences, but also get to know our brand even better, and get to know the club even better,” Tarre continues.

“We were the first, actually, to work with Amazon on All or Nothing. At the time, this felt very disruptive. Now, many others have followed. But at the time it felt disruptive, because probably the biggest barrier wasn’t the willingness to tell those stories from our side of the business, [it] was getting the football side of the business on board, which tends to be very closed by nature. So we managed to put that together and it was hugely successful.

Being a trendsetter

CFG has a reputation for being the front runners when it comes to embracing the latest innovations. City had announced a partnership with Faze clan in 2019 and the announcement of this deal highlighted the club’s objective of establishing their presence in the esports space. Given the large and young audience esports draws, the club had also announced the signing of its first Fortnite player in October 2021.

Tarre believes esports can help City acquire newer fans and appeal to a younger audience.

“For us, esports is a way to engage with the youngest audience,” she says. “It’s a way to keep our brand and our engagement with fans as authentic as possible as well as speaking the same language.”

Besides esports, the developing spaces the club is looking into is the emergence of the NFT (Non fungible tokens) Market. The club had teamed up with artist Jon Noorlander for its first ever NFT drop, the NFT’s theme would revolve around the teams 2020/2021 title winning campaign. Depending upon its success another set of digital collectibles would be launched.

The other innovative space City has forayed into is the Metaverse ecosystem. Recently Manchester City had inked a partnership deal with Sony which would see both the parties developing a virtual Etihad stadium. Through this development users will have the opportunity to visit the clubs virtually created 55,000-seater Etihad stadium in a digital world. Sony subsidiary Hawk Eye will use image analysis and skeletal tracking technology to develop this concept.

Learn more about Manchester City plan to build Etihad stadium in the Metaverse