POV: Ferguson Retired

MINDSHARE POINT OF VIEW - At 9:17am on Wednesday 8th May, Manchester United’s Press Office (@ManUtd_PO) sent out a short tweet explaining that Sir Alex Ferguson had retired as Manchester United manager after 26 and a half years, accompanied with #ThankYouSirAlex. 

Within the hour the tweet had been repeated 18,000 times and there were 1.4m mentions of the story on Twitter, taking eight of the 10 UK trending topic spots, and four of the 10 worldwide trends. In an era where brands want, and need, to be part of the consumer conversation, this was the perfect opportunity to capture the moment.


Brands that have an official affiliation with Manchester United would have a legitimate reason to join the Twitter conversation, demonstrating their partnership with the club and providing an authoritative opinion.  Some sponsors decided against activating in the social space, which is no criticism.  Given the huge interest on Twitter, perhaps some brands felt they that would refrain from commenting as they wouldn’t be adding value to the conversation.  However, those that did activate lacked the imagination required to cut through the clutter – SHARP mentioned an unofficial Manchester United twitter account in their message, whilst Thomas Cook’s #SirFergieHoliday didn’t capture the public’s imagination (4 RTs).

Brands not officially associated with Manchester United were free to provide the type of reactive marketing that this story allowed.  Nando’s kept their Manchester restaurants open for an extra five minutes yesterday evening, calling it #NandosFergieTime.  The announcement garnered in excess of 16,000 RTs (about half the number @ManUtd_PO received), whilst mentions praised and endorsed the restaurant chain; there has since been subsequent national PR from the activity

Paddy Power was at its best on Twitter, releasing light-hearted messages as the day unfolded, intertwined of course with its Next Manager specials.  The activation drove over 1,000 new followers on the day, along with sizeable traffic to site.


Ever since Oreo released details of its ‘Dunk in the Dark’ activation, explaining that the brand had a whole host of creatives and clients in a room watching the Super Bowl, the emphasis for brands has been how to maximise the ‘in the moment’ activity.

Brands that simply prepare and activate content calendars planned weeks in advance will quickly start to fall behind in social, and the emphasis will be on immediate response.  Sport is a live show, so brands must be prepared to activate at a moment’s notice.


Activation by the likes of Nando’s and Paddy Power just go to show that, given the right messaging and adding value to the conversation, timing is everything.  Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement cannot be compared to Oreo’s Super Bowl activity (a planned event), but it is just another example that social media, and especially Twitter, is the perfect environment in which brands should play if they wish to join the consumer conversation – however it is key that they activate in a way that cuts through the clutter and captures the moment.

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