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  • Writer's pictureAsif Chowdhury

ManUnited: The LOVEMARK born out of struggles

The Theatre of Dreams (

I vividly remember the moment when Manchester United became the English Premier League Champions back in 2013. The players were jumping next to Sir Alex Ferguson and so was I on my couch 8,000 kilometers away in a small country in South Asia. But since then, it’s been seven years of utter disappointment and poor display of soccer. But that didn’t change one thing. Manchester United is still one of the most valuable soccer brands in the world. The club has a brand value of CAD 2.4 billion. So how did it manage to remain one of the most valuable soccer brands?

It has transformed itself into a “Lovemark” – an identity that you love, respect and can’t do without if you are a “Red Devil” fan.

A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture by Markus Giesler at the Schulich School of Business on entertainment marketing. An interesting takeaway from the lecture was that often the crucial ingredients for marketing success remain unbeknownst and experience design thinking roots back to culture. That’s exactly what Manchester United did. The brand has created an obligatory passage point to English soccer, with or without knowing.

For the Brits, association with soccer goes back to the pre-industrial English society. It became popular in the late 1800s when the English sport went international. Unfortunately, World War II took a toll on the game, and the post-war era for English football was met with endless struggles.

The situation wasn’t very different either for Manchester United, a club founded in 1878. After years of struggle, the club re-emerged under Matt Busby in 1948. The subsequent trophies in 1952, 1956 and 1957, and the club’s triumph in Europe almost echoed with the recovery of the United Kingdom from the great war. The tragedy of the Munich crash and the club’s re-emergence from the loss made Manchester United the symbol of English struggle, success and prestige. It became an identity that’s known for fighting back. And soon Manchester United coined the nickname “The Red Devils.”

The Busby Babes (

In the early 1900s, Manchester United built their home stadium, Old Trafford, popularly known as the “Theatre of Dreams.” In the 50s, they popularized the “Busby Babes” as English soccer sensations and in the 1990s, the world witnessed “The Class of 92” that eventually resulted in players like David Beckham emerging as a global celebrity.

This reaffirmed the brand’s strong heritage and influence in the world of soccer and beyond. The honouring of the most prestigious knighthood to Ferguson, Busby and Charlton further signified the cultural importance of the sport and the brand as a merchant of meaning.

United fans celebrating (Adam Davy/2018)

Between the late 90s and early 2000s, Manchester United reached the height of its success with 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League and two UEFA Champions League titles. For the supporters, it seemed almost natural to expect the team to win every time they would go on the pitch. Manchester United fans of the 90s identified themselves with supremacy. They started co-creating songs to glorify Manchester United. Soon the four words “Glory Glory Man United” started reigning across the world.

Now in 2020, despite years of mediocre performances, 72% of the brand’s revenues are coming through commercial and broadcasting sales. It’s one of the least affected major soccer clubs due to Covid-19. Despite all the challenges, poor performances and controversies, stakeholders are willing to bet on the brand because it has the merit to create an obligatory passage point to the sport. It’s a Lovemark that’s backed by a global “Red Devil” community built over the past 142 years.


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