Manchester United and Tinder: a match made in heaven?
It has been a crazy week for football. Who could have predicted that any
club, let alone one playing in the French Ligue 1, could afford to
pay Neymar's astronomical buyout clause and
That's football and when it comes to
the game's most prized assets, there is no shortage of parties
willing to pay a premium. This is true for players as it is for
clubs and if reports are to be believed, Manchester United are about to make waves
of their own, off the pitch.
If what the papers say are true,
United are in discussions with Tinder about the
dating app becoming one of its top partners and
featuring on the sleeve of the shirt. The news has been met with
reactions ranging from comedy to bemusement to cynicism.
Should the parties reach an agreement,
rumoured to be in the region of £12m per annum, Manchester United
will become the 10th Premier League club to secure a sleeve
sponsor. The shirt will become the most lucrative piece of fabric
in world sport, already receiving £50m per annum from Chevrolet and
another £75m from Adidas.
On the face of it, one must wonder
what one of the most historic global sporting institutions has in
common with a dating app often associated with casual flings.
No club in world football has done a
better job in turning its rich history and on the field success
into commercial revenue. With a global fan base claimed to be in
the region of 650m, Manchester United is
not just a popular football team - it's a
marketing power house. Even if that number is
exaggerated, it's still fair to say that the club is one of the
most followed on the planet.
If someone suggested a few years ago
that Manchester United, the club of Busby, Charlton and Ferguson,
would contemplate putting a dating app on its shirt, the news would
be met with ridicule. But that goes to show
how much can change in such a short space of
time. Tinder was only founded in 2012 and today it's
valued almost as much as Manchester United. Yes, let that sink in
for a minute.
So to understand why the world's most
valuable sports team may swipe right on Tinder, it's important to
look beyond the surface.
For Tinder, this is clearly a part of a
strategy to polish its image while embarking on an aggressive
international expansion. Already one of the world's biggest dating
apps with over 50 million users, Tinder wants to capture a lion's
share of the online dating market estimated to be worth $2.4bn by
2021 in Europe and China alone.
If that's the aim, then Tinder can do
worse than partner with a football club whose fans in those markets
number in the hundreds of millions. Should the match happen, United
fans can expect some incentive offers to download Tinder. But there
is likely more to this than getting Manchester United fans to start
looking for love on their mobiles. This is about a hugely
successful tech company looking to leverage its unique ability to
connect individuals and groups based on common points of
Which brings us to what's in it for
United, other than another £12m per annum in their coffers and
bragging rights over their neighbours. The answer is a lot more
than a cheque.
Tinder is available in 30 languages
and in 194 countries. Its users, a large proportion of whom are the
ever elusive millennials, spend a whopping 1.5 hours a day on the
platform. Partnering with Tinder won't convert these millennials
into Manchester United fans or get them to spend a similar amount
of time following the club's news. Where Manchester United does
benefit is from partnering with a company that understands
behavioural patterns of a demographic the club is desperate to
reach and applying Tinder's successful formula to create a more
connected community of fans. Far-fetched? Don't be so sure.
Football fans and sports fans at large
love communal aspects of following their teams. One only has to
look at how engaged football fans are on social platforms to
understand their desire to feel part of the community. Most of
these fans live nowhere near the clubs they follow so it's
difficult to maintain their attention and engagement.
Tinder can connect fans wherever they
happen to be in the world, meaning that you're only ever a swipe
away from meeting fellow fans, to watch a game or just hang out.
Tinder Social is experimenting with this now and it's easy to see
how this concept can be easily applied in the fan environment.
This, of course, is all hypothetical
but it's where partnerships should be moving to. For far too long,
sports rights holders have been out selling inventory without
thinking of how their sponsors - many of whom are some of the most
successful businesses in the world - can be true strategic
We will soon find out if this is just
a financial transaction or an example of innovation in sport
sponsorship. Let's hope it's the latter.
Misha Sher is the vice president of
sport and entertainment at MediaCom Worldwide.
This blog was first published in the
Drum on 9 August 2017. To view the original blog post, click