Principles of Marketing: Manchester City Football Club Corporate Social Responsibility
Background of Manchester City Football Club
Manchester City Football Club, nicknamed The Citizens, City, or The Sky Blues, is a football club in England, located in the Greater Manchester Area. The football club was founded in 1880 in the Eastland area of Manchester, using the Maine Road as its home ground until 2003 when it moved to the City of Manchester Stadium (Mancity.com, n.d). The club’s early success was in the 1960s and 1970s when it won the European Cup Winners, League Cup, FA Cup, and League Championship. Between 1980 and early 2000s, the club underwent mixed fortunes, including a relegation to the third tier of English football in the 80S and becoming a football powerhouse in the late 2000s. Since its decline in the 80s, the club has been in the shadows of the success of local rivals, the Manchester United Football Club, which has had unprecedented success since 1990 to date. The biggest rivalry between the two is in the prestigious and global brand, the English Premier League, which city has won twice since the 1990 (BBC, 2015, n.p). On the contrary, Manchester United has won thirteen times, under the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the most successful manager in the sports world ever.
Manchester City has gained ground regarding pitch performance and global appeal on its rivals since the takeover by an Abu Dhabi United sports investment company. In fact, according to Ozanian, 2016, n.p, of the Forbes magazine, Manchester City was ranked the sixth most valuable football club in world football. Currently, the team is among the elite clubs in Europe, with some of the best players and management team in the world, competing for success both domestically and internationally. City’s success is based on comprehensive marketing strategy changes in the club including sports deals with the Etihad Airlines and Nike footwear. However, a majority of the club’s success is attributed to local support from fans around the Eastland of Manchester town. Coincidentally, the success has been boosted by the club’s new approach to its corporate social responsibility. One of its CSR is the extension it made to the Manchester City Council, where it took about eighty acres near the Etihad and started a regeneration project. The club facilitated a remediation of the former gasometer, refuse tip, rail sidings, and advanced works before setting up a sporting excellence center. The result is a football center with a capacity of 7000 thousand fans, which provides over 155 jobs for the locals (Mancity.com). Other benefits surrounding the facility are a community leisure hub and the Cornel sixth form college. The leisure hub has a fitness suite, rugby pitches, dance studio, and swimming pool, all administered by the local city council. Overall, since its takeover in 2007, the club has initiated different community–based programs, which has endeared it to football fans and gradually gaining prominence from its rival, Manchester United. Ideally, the club is using its CSR as business sustainability approach in the lucrative United Kingdom football market.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a business practice, where an organization adopts initiatives aimed at benefitting the society it serves. There are several CSR tactics, such as giving business proceeds to charity, implementing initiatives towards a greener environment, and supporting local programs. Given this, corporate social responsibility has four major categories: volunteering, ethical labor practice, philanthropy, and environmental efforts (Trench, and Yeomans, 2006, n.p). First, volunteering is achieved through volunteer events and doing deeds without expecting any form of returns. Secondly, ethical labor practices are demonstrated, by how an organization treats its employees in an ethical and fair manner. Achieving such business practices helps an organization participate in international markets, because it meets the standard labor laws. Thirdly, philanthropy is the donation of business resources to local and national charities. Finally, environmental efforts are majorly based on reducing the amount of carbon print in the environment.
Manchester City Corporate Social responsibility programs
Manchester City Football Club corporate social responsibility is guided by the club’s foundation, City in the Community, that was established in 1986 and uses football-based initiatives to impact on the lives of residents (mancity.com, 2016, n.p). Its programs target three primary social responsibility areas: inclusion, health, and education, engaging more than forty thousand inhabitants. The education programs include City BTEC, Pathways, and Built for Business that are used to empower the youth, with crucial skills required in the employment market. The health arm of the Foundation campaigns for a healthy lifestyle and physical activity to promote healthy living. Using programs such as “City Play and “City Cooks,” the club reaches out to parents to teach them proper dieting practices (mancity.com, 2016, n.p). Finally, the inclusion perspective of the program promotes the inclusion of all persons in the society in sports, including the physically challenged and women. “Ply the game” and “One City Disability” are some of it programs targeting local communities. Moreover, the football club is aiming to make its neighborhood greener by planting over six thousand trees in its neighborhood. The instant greenery initiative also involves the use of solar energy and construction of underground tanks, to store rainwater for use in watering football pitches and general cleaning of the football excellence center.
Corporate Social Responsibility as a marketing tool
Corporate Social responsibility is a vital marketing tool because it connects the consumer and producer in a unique manner. The four-primary marketing mix are price, product, promotion, and place. According to Kotler, Armstrong, Wong, and Saunders, J., 2008 pg. 380 in every market, consumers are very diverse in terms of needs and buying plans. Therefore, a brand cannot appeal to all of them at the same time. Given this, producers and sellers target a given market segment, by offering a dedicated approach to the consumer. CSR plays a critical role in this aspect in the sense, that the organization will seek to appeal to a given community setting as its only target market. In the case of Manchester City Football marketing strategy, the Maine Road community is its target market. The club had to impress them because it understands that more than half of the city is loyal to its competitor, Manchester United. Though some of the football fans around its stadium support its competitors, its program makes sure that new football enthusiasts will opt for the club. Using the CSR strategy, the football club has met its product positioning and promotion marketing mix, where it has both a local and international appeal.
Ideally, most populations are becoming more aware of their environmental and social issues, which are illustrated by the unprecedented growth of philanthropic organizations around the globe. Similarly, most business including SME’s is becoming careful with their products’ impact on the population, because consumers are not only looking at how the product is responsible, but more interpreted by how the company selling it is responsible. Implementing, working CSR practices improves the engagement between the employee, company, and customer. The aim of a well-structured CSR is to get many target customers talking about the product, and then consume it in large numbers. In the same vein, a happy workforce is critical to the success of an organization and has a direct impact on the working environment of the company. When the workforce is in a good working environment and happy with what the company is offering them, there will be more innovation which translates to success in the organization. The implementation of good CSR policies is crucial for long-term benefits for a company. Ideally, having a balanced and effective engagement with suppliers, investors, regulatory bodies, and communities helps an organization maximize its value and create a sustainable organization (Huang, Yen, S., Liu, C. & Huang, P. 2014, 75). It can help a company achieve its revenue goals through improved employee productivity and achieve better stock success as a reputable company. In essence, a company that integrates CSR to its business practices gets more media coverage and publicity, which advertises it to target audience. As a result, it builds the companies network and makes it viable for strategic partnerships.
Corporate Social Responsibility as a marketing tool for Manchester City
Manchester city stakeholders are diverse, including the local community, who are the fans attending soccer matches and sponsors that use the club as a promotion facility. According to Manchester City’s website, its partners include Etihad Airways, Nike, aabar, Nissan, SAP, Nexen Tire, Hays, Techno Mobile, betsafe, WIXcom, QNET, LG, UBTECH, Wega, Vitality, DSGUARED2, Wolf Blass, Heineken, Trader.com and EA Sports. Concisely, these are multimillion global brands with a keen interest in the CSR practices of each company they enter into a partnership with. Interestingly, more than half of these partners entered into business with Manchester City, after its take over and change of business strategy, including the aggressive CSR approach to football affairs. According to Lagae, W., 2005 n.p, sports sponsorships deals are not only based on how a sports club is performing on the pitch, but also how much it is impacting the community.
City realized that it cannot attract global partners, if it does not have a satisfied local community, who will show their gratitude by attending more matches. In the football economics, large football crowds, translate to more television rights and most recently, winning the highly competitive player transfer wars between clubs (BBC Sport, 2015, n.p). Besides, the club sells more shirts and makes an international appeal, paving the way for franchises and strategic partnerships contributing to the economy. For instance, the huge number of fans attending matches for Europe elite clubs such as Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Real Madrid are a significant factor in the business success of these clubs. More importantly, the English Premier League is a crowd-driven league, where crowds play a vital role in motivating their local team. The number of fans attending a game is used to determine the superiority and market appeal of the club, despite their performance on the pitch. For example, former successful football clubs such as Newcastle United and Leeds United, now in the second tier of English football, considered more attractive than top flight clubs (Sportmail, 2008). In fact, fallen clubs such as Leeds United are still considered more attractive and successful than Manchester City, based on their support base it has in the United Kingdom. Similarly, City’s local rivals, United are still successive in terms of business, despite their three years of below par success on the football pitch.
Based on these dynamics, that surround the English premier league, Manchester City knew that to be successful, it needs more fans to its home games, which will be replicated in its away matches in the long term. Before attracting more crowds, the club had to initiate community-based programs, that will endear them to its matches, either on television or attending matches in the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City’s approach to the corporate social responsibility tool is sophisticated, creating value for both the brand and the stakeholder. The club’s Maine Road regeneration program has diverted from the traditional carbon reducing and funding volunteer programs, to creating business value for its stakeholders. The club’s social responsibility has used a more advanced approach to create an impact on its target market, by trying to evoke psychological reaction towards the brand. Ideally, pride is the common psychological need desired by football fans, with the English Premier League, precisely the City of Manchester is a good example. For instance, in the wake of the Abu Dhabi group take over, Man City football club brought in Carlos Tevez, from local rivals Manchester United. What is more, the club set up a large banner with the player’s picture at the city’s central business center with the words “Welcome to Manchester”. Similar competition has been witnessed with the recent banner outside Manchester City’s official shop of Sweden and Manchester United football club striker, Zlatan Ibrahimović inscribed with the slogan “Manchester welcome to Zlatan”. Though these are promotional strategies, the two rivals are trying to show which side has the best talent in the town, which is a fruit of the social responsibilities strategies, the respective clubs have put in place. In this scenario, the growing Manchester City fan base was an initiative for the club’s pursuit of Carlos Tevez from Manchester United. Combining the “pride” of having a quality talent and local programs that the club had established in it’s community; it boosted its brand image in the Manchester.
Impact of the regeneration program on Manchester City football club Business Performance
Manchester City decision to regenerate the area around the Etihad stadium might not have a direct impact on the performance on the pitch, but it has boosted the club’s business fortunes. Nonetheless, the significance of CSR in the club’s past, current and projected pitch performances cannot be ignored. In the last five seasons, the club has won the English Premier League twice compared to its rivals. Currently, it is among the top three teams in the league and taunted as one of the title contenders. The excellence academy it set up in the area has attracted top talents, both in Manchester and across the globe, with soccer pundits predicting continuous success for the club in future. In fact, the current club manager, Pep Guardiola, was attracted to the club by its center of football excellence academy, which he is shaping to create a unique football culture in the club (Cooper, 2016). Though the success has been backed by a heavy investment by the Abu Dhabi Sports group, the community around has played a critical role by buying more season tickets and following the team on its away matches.
The long-term success set by establishing an academy stadium is arguably the most important thing that the club gains from its Corporate Social responsibility plans. It acts as a foundation for its footballing plans that will be based on acquiring and developing the best global talents. Ideally, this is the business strategy that successful football brands in the globe have been using, to establish continuous excellence in the football market. Some of the clubs that have based success on developing young and homegrown talents are City’s local rivals, Manchester United, Arsenal FC of the United Kingdom, Barcelona FC of Spain, Southampton FC in the United Kingdom, and Atletico Madrid in Spain (Eurosport UK, 2016, n.p). Therefore, the football club will have not only established a sustainable environment to its local fans, but also established a long-term success in its football business plans
Regarding business success based on its CSR, the football club has set up global expansion by establishing partnerships and franchise in different continents. The ability to adhere to the Corporate Social Responsibility by catering to the needs of the various countries, has seen the club have a global appeal. Using its umbrella football ownership business section, The City Group, Manchester City owns stakes in Melbourne City Fc of Australia, Yokohama Marinos FC in Japan, and New York City Fc in the United States (Mancity.com). The club’s interest in these organizations is based on strategic marketing, academy networking, resource sharing. Notably, these football clubs are located in countries with high regard for corporate social responsibility practices, which mean that City has first met its CSR requirements in the United Kingdom. It can be concluded, that the Football Club’s inroads in the global football market are based on its capabilities to adopt valuable CSR practices, both locally and internationally.
Finally, the club’s adherence to constructive CSR has improved its global appeal to sports investment companies. The community around the football club, that has benefited from its corporate social responsibilities, is happier with improved education and health. As a result, the club is attracting global sports companies such as Nike and EA sports, that are signing multi-million contracts to supply the club with football gear and sponsor most of the team’s activities. Moreover, the sport investment companies are acquiring the club’s image rights and funding the transfer of top football talents in the world. For instance, some of Manchester City’s players, such as Sergio Aguero, have image rights agreement with Puma, another player Yaya Toure is a UNICEF ambassador to Africa and Kelvin De Bruyne has a long- term image rights agreement with Nike Sportswear (Express UK, 2016, n.p). For Manchester City, the more its players are contracted to top sports companies and international organizations, the higher the chances that it can get great value sports contracts from investors. Therefore, CSR helps the football club achieve its marketing mix through strategic promotion, positioning and highly competitive, which will translate to premium prices for season tickets and its merchandise on international sportswear suppliers.
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