Manchester United seeks direct marketing shop

Manchester United FC, often mocked for having more supporters in the Home Counties than around Old Trafford, is kicking off the search for a direct marketing agency to communicate with fans both home and away.

The Premiership club, with an estimated seven million fans in the UK alone, is in the process of arranging meetings with direct marketing agencies to discuss possible ways of targeting its fan base.

A year ago Peter Draper, the club's marketing director, spoke to several London-based agencies but did not make an appointment. However, according to one agency source, he is now ready to take talks further.

Manchester United has a database of fans built from its membership scheme, e-commerce and season ticket holders. Direct marketing would be used to keep fans informed as well as for commercial sales of tickets and merchandise.

Recent direct marketing activity by Manchester United has focused on a subscription drive for its MUTV pay-TV channel. It has used the Manchester-based agency Connectpoint to create a response campaign in tabloid newspapers and on digital TV.

It has also trialled direct mail in the Republic of Ireland.

Manchester United also appointed the youth marketing specialist Iris in a bid to improve its relations with its younger fanbase. In the past it had used IMP London for its direct marketing but this relationship ended two years ago.

As well as its UK fanbase, the club is thought to have up to 50 million fans worldwide. It is especially well supported in Asia, where it also operates a chain of retail outlets.

Other football clubs are also taking advertising and direct marketing seriously. For instance, Liverpool FC retains the services of M&C Saatchi.

Draper refused to comment on the story.