Manchester United Football Club

Manchester United Football Club

The brief

Caroline joined Manchester United FC as the Director of Hospitality Sales and was given the brief to sell out seasonal and match day hospitality, and never to leave any seat unsold.

The journey

Despite the enviable supporter base and popularity of Manchester United, Caroline joined as the economic climate was at its lowest point in 30 years, and so over half the stadium was unsold. The difficulty was trying to raise awareness in the marketplace that you have capacity whilst still creating the urgency to buy.

There was little intelligence of existing customers available, so Caroline began to analyse CRM data to profile clients & prospects. This was used to retain existing customers, bring back lapsed clients, and to go out and find new prospects who had the financial acumen to secure high value packages and experiences at the ground.

There had been very limited understanding of the client base prior to Caroline joining and any below-the-line activity, direct mail, and e-shots were sporadic, unplanned and not diligently followed-up.

Marketing strategies were based on hunches and assumption rather than proven models. Intelligence, data and creative weren’t cohesively joined up, resulting in generic messaging. The club was paying excessively for data and then missing opportunities, so it was key to get the right message to the right person at the right time via the right channel. By identifying and cloning profitable clients, we were able to grow the new business and achieve sell out. We used the intelligence to build creative, innovative sales and marketing strategies that worked and matured.

Caroline created a proactive sales culture by restructuring the sales team, giving them defined key performance indicators, a good bonus structure which rewarded sales performance, and regular sales training. This was a total culture change for the business.

The account management team’s structure was ineffective, so we changed this, allowing us to better focus on our high-end and low-end clients.
One key finding with the low-end clients was a massive benefit in that we were able to up-sell to them, giving them the service they wanted, and increasing the business overall by £1.7m that first season.

The product and the pricing then had to be reviewed. This included a significant investment for refurbishing the executive boxes to create a more immersive and inclusive outdoor feel, whilst still retaining the luxury feel of exclusive hospitality.

Caroline was instrumental in re-branding the seasonal and match-day hospitality, and simplified the product offering whilst at the same time eradicating the culture of discounting to secure business. A customer feedback form was introduced for the sales team to act on, in order to constantly improve the product and customer experience.

Caroline reviewed the marketing collateral for both on and offline, supported by a communication focus that paid attention to the hospitality experience and the football experience equally. We created a microsite that brought the product offering to life and ensured that we were up on the SEO rankings in order to maximise our exposure for business generation.

The Results

This combined approach and focus achieved more than 50% growth in new sales year-on-year in seasonal hospitality, at the same time achieving the first ever stadium sell-out in 2011-12 season. The successive 2012/13 season sold out by the first home game and this sales performance continued year after year with an even earlier sell-out each year.

Matchday hospitality grew from £2.8m turnover to £8m+, and as a result of the achievements and performance we subsequently took over the conference and events arm of the business; growing revenue by 23% and delivering EBITDA growth of 29%.

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