The thinking must have seemed to make sense – Manchester City was scheduled to play a series of matches as part of the Champions League, an annual competition organised by UEFA for the European clubs that top each of their respective national competitions. The problem was that some of the clubs that Man City were due to face were not household names. And that would have a negative impact on gate receipts – an important revenue stream in its own right and also a measure of the audience that could be expected to watch the game at home.

Perhaps influencers would be the answer. Find some well connected social media influencers and incentivise them to talk about the games to their followers to try to sell more tickets.

But as is so often the case, execution is everything.

Man City decided to try working with a local influencer agency. So that agency created a brief and distributed it. That was where the problems started. Almost immediately people who saw the brief started pointing out the flaws;

  • The brief described Man City’s opponents as ‘relatively unknown’ – somewhat insulting to the teams they were due to face
  • Additionally the brief included ‘pre-loaded’ tags and content that had to be included in influencers’ posts which undermines the authenticity that they were hoping for
  • The brief said that influencers should be ‘male students and young professionals’ which suggests a lack of interest in female football fans

But perhaps the biggest failure here was to imagine that influencers could manufacture the passion that is so much a part of football.

It is important to note that as soon as the controversy around this brief reached the Man City team, they denied responsibility for the brief, blaming the agency, demanding the brief be taken down and saying they would no longer work with them.

We think this is a perfect situation where ambassadors – not influencers – would be a the best idea. Rather than approaching influencers – who may or may not have an affiliation with the club – and offering them cash to tell their audiences to spend money on tickets, Man City should have recruited a group of passionate Man City fans with like-minded followers as ambassadors. They could then be incentivised – for example with free tickets or money-can’t-buy behind the scenes access – to spread the word about the Champions League games.

What do you think? Should Man City be applauded for trying something new? Or was their lack of oversight a huge mistake? And what would you have done to make this campaign a success?


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