“Manchester United is pleased to invite brand, marketing and communications leaders to a relaxed drinks occasion in the presence of their legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson CBE”.
So read a full-page ad in yesterday’s edition of Lions Daily, the Cannes advertising festival newspaper. Perhaps irked by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich ‘s conspicuous swanning about on his super yacht, the self-styled “world’s greatest football club” now have a big boat of their own, and they have parked it in Cannes for the duration of the ad festival.
The party aboard the Motor Yacht Manchester United Opus is part of a concerted effort by the club to woo the major clients who now routinely hang out at Cannes. Earlier in the week club director and former star Sir Bobby Charlton had taken to the stage in the Palais for a seminar entitled “Creating the future of a legendary brand” along with group commercial director Lee Daley. The latter also had a letter printed in the Cannes special edition of Ad Age in which he reminisiced about his days working with agency chief John Dooner (and I quote “Dooner, what a guy, what a leader”. Yikes.)
Previosuly, Daley had been the UK chairman of Saatchi & Sattchi and so, we presume, is well-versed in the opportunities it affords to schmooze big marketing spenders. United, it seems, have recognised that this is where the fat wallets hang out and they want to help thin them out.
There are lots of legendary brands at Cannes – Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nike – with all its talk of “customers” and “brand” Manchester United is just one more. Didn’t it used to be a football club though?