In an exclusive interview in the December/January edition of SportsPro, Manchester City’s chief brand and commercial officer Ian Cafferky explains for the first time how he and his team are building the club’s brand in Manchester and beyond.
Last week Manchester City, current Premier League leaders, reported the biggest loss in the history of English soccer. In the 2010-11 financial year the club, bought by United Group, a company ultimately owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nayhan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, three years ago, lost UK£149.9 million as a result of huge spends on new players and facility improvements.
If the financial figures – which also included a 49 per cent increase in commercial partnership revenue and a 27.4 per cent rise in television rights income – make the loudest headlines, behind the scenes something of a revolution is taking place. In an exclusive interview in the December/January edition of SportsPro - marking the first time Manchester City executives have spoken openly about building the club’s brand - City’s chief brand and commercial officer Ian Cafferky, puts it this way: “At a very high level we see ourselves as a media entertainment company, not just a football club.”
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While Mancini and his coaching staff plot the route to success on-field, it is Cafferky and his team who have the job of enhancing and building the Manchester City brand, both locally and internationally. He is responsible for the club’s sales and services department, ticketing, digital operation, international development, brand marketing and partnerships. “Obviously,” he explains, before the publication of the club’s latest set of results, “there’s 800 million people watching us on television, there’s 50,000 in the stadium so you really have to understand that mechanism: you’re not just about people turning up in the stadium any more, even if your [media] rights are owned by Sky.
“We’re trying to build a sustainable football club for the future. Now, within that we think along multiple axes – so what’s the infrastructure required, what’s the team, who are the people required? We run ourselves along six strategic objectives over a five-year plan period. We’re trying to double our revenues approximately by 2017. It’s quite a tightly run machine – five-year plans, one-year plans, 90 day objectives – so it’s probably not typically what I would say most sports entities are. Most probably have an inherited way of behaving; ours has definitely been driven by best practice in business. A lot of people have been hired from outside the sector so you get a real mix of people from across sports and across media – even outside of media and sports.”
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The commercial possibilities opened up by the new investment – and the positive effect that has had on the team - are many. But Cafferky insists the club is walking before it runs, mindful of its rich heritage and its supporters. “We’ve been very careful to look at what the DNA of the club actually is and we’re building that brand story step by step rather than jumping out to the world saying, ‘This is who we are’. We’re being very clear about what has been there for a very long time and how we hold on to it. At the core of that is that it is a community club. It has been by definition for an incredibly long time; it hasn’t been a club about trophies. It’s been about people turning up and participating. This club has been living on that since zero but particularly in the last 20 or 30 years.
Pointing to the results of a recent Football Association supporters survey, in which City ranked first in five of seven questions on community, he adds: “The identity of the club in the eyes of the fans – which is the brand; the brand isn’t something I announce to them, this is their perception – is tightly aligned with the idea that they are a community club. The pillar right in the centre of it that keeps kids right through to adults understanding what this club is is the fact that it is alive in the city of Manchester. A lot of the stories that people tell make up the identity of the club. Part of the identity of the club is sharing those stories and storytelling.”
The full, exclusive interview with Manchester City’s chief brand and commercial officer Ian Cafferky and head of partnerships Luis Vicente can be read in the December/January edition of SportsPro. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.