WITH 3.5 million supporters in Malaysia alone, the world's richest football club, Manchester United PLC (MU), is keen to turn its English football fan base in Asia into consumers of its products and services.
One of the potential business enterprises will be telephony services, including mobile phone downloads and short message service (SMS), according to David Farrow, deputy managing director of Premier Consulting, which is the exclusive business consultant of Manchester United.
We would like to explore the mobile telephone market in Malaysia to better acquaint our fans here with our brand. The fan base in this country is the biggest after China. Basically, we want to know what they want and how they feel about the club.
There is a lot we can do for our Manchester United fans here. For example, we don't even have a Malay language website here, he told StarBiz in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
Farrow was on a road show to promote the club with Manchester United director of commercial enterprises Ben Hatton. They had held dialogues with the participants of the More than just a football club forum. The forum in Kuala Lumpur was attended by decision makers from more than 30 companies involved in industries ranging from automobiles to telecommunications.
Malaysia was the last stop of the Asian road show for Farrow and Hatton who had already been to Japan, China, South Korea and Singapore.
Asia is an important market for Manchester United, we have a huge football fan base here and the largest number is in China at 23 million, Hattan said.
He said the football club was in discussions with various Asian companies on the prospects of sports marketing and sponsorships.
We are not targeting any specific sector for sponsorship prospects but there are certainly some companies which are more open to this sport such as those in the beer and soft drinks industry. However, our doors are also open to players from various other sectors, he said.
Manchester United, which is a public-listed company in Britain, has roughly 50 million fans worldwide. Many of the clubs strategic alliances have been forged with multinationals from the US such as Nike, Budweiser and Pepsi.
According to Hatton, the Nike partnership is worth £23mil a year while the telecommunication giant Vodaphone contributes about £9mil a year.