Manchester United fans hit owners in pocket as THG pulls out of £200mln kit deal
MyProtein, the supplements retail website run by the online retail platform, was due to become the club’s training kit sponsor in a 10-year, £20mln a year deal.
It would have seen the MyProtein take over from American insurance group AON after its arrangement with the club expires at the end of June.
According to press reports, Manchester United’s managing director Richard Arnold, who oversees the club’s commercial partnerships, was informed on Friday that THG were withdrawing, due to concerns about supporters’ protests against the club’ and boycotts against the club’s commercial partners.
Not only is it the latest example of disruption for United following the forced postponement of its fixture against Liverpool, after protestors stormed the Old Trafford pitch last weekend, it also reflects an ever-growing influence of online activism.
As an aside, the fact that Manchester United has not only a £235mln a shirt sponsor but would also have a separate £200mln training kit sponsor, perhaps tells its own story about the monetisation of football and the priorities of club owners.
Manchester-based THG was perhaps spooked by the mischievous social activism that has already hit United’s other new commercial partner, Teamviewer.
Teamviewer, the German group which signed up in March for a £235mln, five-year shirt sponsorship deal, plummeted to a ‘1 star’ rating on TrustPilot as the consumer review site was besieged by United fans who all left negative comments and reviews.
TrustPilot now blocks regular public reviews for Teamviewer unless the user provides the website with evidence that they have used the service.
On Twitter, meanwhile, a similar phenomenon can be observed. For example, TeamViewer last week attempted some fairly run of the mill social media marketing with a post to celebrate Earth Day only for the branding exercise to be drowned out by hundreds of #glazerout replies and retweets.
Another quite Twitter banal post earlier in April about password security was similarly derailed by several hundred further posts.
Presumably, this is exactly the kind of disruptive noise that THG will be keen to avoid, after all the idea is for the marketeers to promote their brand identity not decimate it.
Whilst seeing social messaging spammed up by campaigners is something of a nuisance, the threat of boycott ups the ante.
The viral #notapennymore campaign seeks to put momentum behind fan boycotts of club sponsors and commercial partners which include Adidas, Cadbury, Remington, Marriot Hotels, and Tag Heuer.
In parallel, another disruptive online scheme sees protesting fans target the paid for Google Ads of United sponsors, in theory ramping up the costs and spoiling legitimate pay-per-click digital marketing efforts – basically the idea is that fans uninterested in actually purchasing anything click links to a) cost the club sponsor money b) harm the ROI on the ad spend c) ultimately dent the sponsor’s profits.
In an open letter published online, the #notapennymore campaign group threatened: “Manchester United fans will boycott your products, seek to tarnish your brands, and support your competitors until you terminate your commercial partnerships with the Glazer family.”
Its yet to be seen exactly what impact it will have on United’s blue-ribbon multinational brands such as Chevrolet or DHL, but, for the fast-growing and locally-based THG it appears that an association with Manchester United would presently be more trouble than its worth.