Byravee Iyer
Oct 17, 2012

Manchester United to open Asia office, targeting region's consumers

SINGAPORE - Just over two months after its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, the English football club Manchester United is readying to open its first Asia office in Hong Kong by the end of this year.

Manchester United opens an office in Hong Kong
Manchester United opens an office in Hong Kong

Jamie Reigle, the club’s former director for corporate development in the UK, has taken over as managing director for APAC, spearheading plans for the region. Speaking at the recently held Asia Consumer Summit in Singapore, Reigle said that Manchester United has resonance around the world.

In an email response to Campaign Asia-Pacific, a spokesperson for Manchester United did not specify the date for the new office opening but said the company has “planned some PR activity around the office opening for later this year.”

Asia is a big target market for the EPL (English Premier League) in general, and last year's finalist is no exception. According to Reigle, of the 50 million viewers who watched Manchester United games last year, roughly 10 million of those were from Indonesia. “We have thrice as many Indonesian Facebook fans compared to our English fans,” he added, elaborating on Asia’s importance to the club. Manchester United has about 27 million Facebook fans on its page.

Prior to the IPO, the club launched marketing road shows in the US, Europe and Asia to market the stock to investors in the region.

The key revenue areas for the club in Asia are merchandise sales and sponsorship deals. “We’re looking at merchandising for the middle-class consumer,” Reigle said.

Last year, the club sold 5 million branded licensed products through 200 licensees in 130 countries.

On the sponsorship front, Reigle said that the company is looking to partner with other companies to provide exclusivity to consumers in Asia. By that, Reigle means tying up with local brands as sponsors or associates or in some in cases tying up with brands for local licensing deals.

A case in point is the five-year deal Telekom Malaysia signed with Manchester United to become its “integrated telecommunications partner.” Snacking brand Mister Potato, another Malaysian company, became the official snacking partner for the club.

Deals such as these are extremely important for the club because merchandising sales and sponsorships account for a third of its revenues.

Manchester United is the only publicly listed sports club in the United States. Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians were listed on the Nasdaq for about two years starting in 1998 before reverting to private ownership. The National Football League's Green Bay Packers, often referred to as a public company, are actually community owned, as their 'stock', which pays no dividends and confers no governing rights, is not publicly listed.

For the fourth quarter, Manchester United’s loss widened to $24.4 million from $649,000 in the year-ago period. Revenue fell 25 per cent to 74.5 million pounds.

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