Man U partners with Aussie Rules to chase fans

With an estimated 73 million fans, give or take a few million, around the world, Manchester United is among the biggest club names on the globe. But even with such a huge support base, Peter Draper, United's marketing chief since 1999, yesterday said the soccer giant could not afford to rest on its laurels, The Age reported.

Already exploring ways to identify fans in Australia - it is working on an agreement with the Australian Rules-playing Essendon Football Club (a foundation member of the 108 year-old Australian Football League) to share member database knowledge - and Asia, Draper said sporting organisations needed to understand their fan base to succeed.

"Our challenge - and I think the challenge of many sports organisations today - is to embrace fans as customers and get to know them and get to know the relationship that they want to have with that organisation," Draper said.

"That's part of the trick really, knowing who your fans are."