Appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjær Pays Brand Dividends

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

As Ole Gunnar Solskjær made it eight wins from eight games since he took charge at Manchester United, the Norwegian has completely transformed the feeling around the club both on and off the pitch. Not only has the Baby-faced Assassin put the smiles back on the players faces and got them back in the habit of winning, but off the pitch there has been a marked shift in terms of those engaging with the brand.

The positive energy the smiling Norwegian brings has been felt across Manchester United's global media channels too. In a short space of time Solskjær has laid to rest the gloom and feeling of stagnation that engulfed the tenure of Jose Mourinho which seemed to render great players good whilst at the same time imprinting both negatively on the clubs legion of fans and brand as a whole. 

Since the Norwegian stepped in for the sacked Jose Mourinho, United have won all four of their Premier League games, scoring 14 goals and conceding just three. As a result, the team’s upturn in form has coincided with a surge in interactions from fans engaging with the club’s official media platforms. Clearly getting a man who's Manchester United through and through and steeped in the traditions of the club knows what the fans crave and has managed to carve that narrative into something that both the players and the fans trust. 

During the last two weeks of December Soccerex reported that the Manchester United club app had enjoyed the biggest figures since its launch period in terms of weekly downloads and reach. Furthermore, average session times and frequency of visits were also achieving new heights with Boxing Day setting a record for daily active users when United beat Huddersfield 3-1. Perhaps more interestingly, Solskjær's appointment saw 'the Red Devils' website reach more than treble in the week of his appointment, with the site garnering more visitors in the last two weeks of 2018 than both Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Just two weeks after Solskjær's return to the fold Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, 'saw United record 55.7 million interactions, which was more than any other sports team and 45 per cent higher than Barcelona who received the second most interactions on the three main social networks,' according to Soccerex. 

The Solskjær effect 

One amazing statistic that encapsulates the Solskjær effect is that Manchester United fans watched the equivalent of 88 years’ worth of Youtube content in the two weeks after Solskjær replaced Mourinho. That's a mind blowing change in brand engagement from fans who were seriously disaffected with both Mourinho and the brand of football the team played. 

Of course, Solskjær has the benefit of having trained some of these United superstars, such as Paul Pogba, as kids, but already there has been a sea change in the the stories emanating from Old Trafford. One that suggests that the Norwegian has set about putting the players at ease to create a new brand narrative where the players can express themselves both on and off the pitch and create a new compelling United story.

The question for the directors of Manchester United and Ed Woodward in particular is, do they stick or twist at the end of the season when it comes to Solksjaer? If the results on the pitch continue to come and the players are galvanised by the Norwegian's methods, do they risk upsetting the equilibrium and go for the much vaunted Mauricio Pochettino at the expense of the goodwill and transformation in brand engagement generated by Solksjaer? Changes at the top are difficult for any brand, but when you happen to be the most followed Premier League club on social media and the third largest brand in global football behind FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF, why take the risk? We all know what happened the last time United went for 'The Chosen One'.

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