City's outdoor deal turns Manchester blue

Last year outdoor advertising companies Maiden and Viacom gave Manchester City FC ad space on bus sides and poster sites in return for corporate hospitality packages.

Campaign This is our City
Client Manchester City Football Club
PR team In-house and Grey London
Timescale September-October 2005
Budget Less than £100,000

The club used ad agency Grey London to produce a series of posters to celebrate the relationship between the fans and the city. City's PR team was tasked with promoting the launch of the posters to the local press and using the ads to generate some positive coverage for the club.

To reaffirm that City fans make Manchester what it is.

Strategy and Plan
Although the posters didn't use the club's logo (it only showed its web address the ad campaign did use City's sky-blue colours. With slogans such as 'Greater Manchester' and 'Réal Manchester', the PR team expected some light-hearted media reaction that it might offend Manchester United fans.

Head of press Paul Tyrell briefed the in-house PR team on how to deal with any potential backlash, stressing that the aim was for people to get satisfaction from working out what the posters were about. What was less expected was the fury that the posters actually generated.

United fans covered the posters with graffiti and some buses were stoned, prompting the team to draw up a crisis management plan and defend the posters while condemning the violence. When United fans also reported the campaign to the Advertising Standards Authority, the PR team decided to come out fighting. After the ASA
rejected the complaints, the club sent a out press release with the headline 'ASA backs Manchester City's brand campaign by Grey London'.

Measurement and Evaluation
The release gave the club page leads in The Independent, The Guardian's sports pages, the Daily Mail and several mentions on Radio Five Live. The Daily Mail covered the story twice, first with the poster launch, and second when the rivalry element of the story had intensified.

Local media – The Manchester Evening News, Key 103 FM and GMR – all reported the story in depth. City goalkeeper David James was featured on Sky Sports News wearing a campaign T-shirt.

The club's own poll of fans revealed awareness of the campaign was high, at 54 per cent, while 87 per cent of supporters disagreed with the statement: 'The club shouldn't be wasting money like this'. The Guardian's media correspondent Owen Gibson says that the story was ideal for its Business of Sport page. 'We were looking for things that appealed to an industry audience and also to the general reader – and this was good as clubs aren't known for promoting themselves in a professional way to their communities.'

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