Man Utd aims for 50 million on-line fans in 3 years

English Premier League club Manchester United is in talks with marketing groups including WPP, Publicis, Omnicom and McCann Worldgroup about a global strategic partnership to drive the club's digital fan base to 50 million users. "We are a football club and a global brand, a media phenomenon, but at the moment we are not doing enough for our fans," the MU Group Commercial Director, Lee Daley, told Mark Sweney of "Our database is currently 4 million and we want to drive that to 50 million-plus globally within three years. Our future is community and content." He said the right partner "has to have global reach, it will be a network-based relationship and there has to be core strength in Asia. We are a global brand currently attached to local operating capability."

Daley, the former chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi London, said that the club was set to complete research into its global audience that was likely to show a fan base which had grown from 75 million in 2003 to around 90 million due to the increased penetration of the Premier League on TV around the globe. The figures are likely to show that the MU fan base in China "has probably doubled" in the last four years. "The club has a remarkable following but for most fans there can never be a direct relationship of, say, going to Old Trafford," he said. "We need to figure out how to enhance the experience for the fans, increase the ways they can enjoy us. That is the aim of the strategic partnership I want to make."