Pogba is #Pogback, but who is the real winner?

Usually when a football player signs for a new Club, we see the same old choreographed handshake between the player and manager, a simple message to fans and followers across the world.

Committed.  Together.  Teamwork.  All words that come to mind during news of player signings and club press conferences i.e. Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.

#PogBack is different.

At 12:20 GMT, a 10 second video was released from the official Manchester United Twitter account captioned ‘Are you ready? #POGBACK’.  Some have argued this was timed perfectly to coincide with the opening of the Asian Market, a territory where United has strong stock.

Shortly afterwards Adidas made its presence known and launched new ‘First Never Follows’ campaign content across its channels to celebrate Pogba’s return. The content includes Pogba’s fellow Adidas ambassador, Manchester United fan and UK grime artist, Stormzy.  Here Pogba features in the video, and Stormzy confirms the signing by wearing a Man United shirt with Pogba’s name on the back.  Interestingly this was released on Stormzy’s Facebook and was swiftly deleted before the official announcement.

The world record deal of £89million has taken the worlds of sport and social media by storm since its announcement, and the marketing teams at Manchester United and Adidas must be revelling in its success.

Perhaps what makes this signing so unique is United’s approach to marketing and it’s collaboration with Adidas to jointly own the announcement to some extent. In recent weeks Adidas has used both Pogba and Stormzy to tease fans in relation to the big ‘Will He, Won’t He’ question.  United and Adidas have seemingly cooperated and utilised shared assets to produce a distinctive and modern campaign, a great case study for football clubs across the world.

When a football team releases something on social media, a high proportion of those engaging with it are usually club fans, or perhaps more generically football fans.  In this case however, through using Stormzy and Pogba’s strong 2.32 million followers United has ensured they reach a far wider audience across a greater variation of channels. The aim, surely, is to build an association with Pogba, build his personal brand and make him a superstar who is iconic both in and out of football. Ultimately this will lead to more people tuning in, more POGBA shirts being purchased, and more buzz around Manchester United as a whole.

The slick generation of content across platforms such as; Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat and YouTube incorporating Stormzy and Adidas highlights the level of thought and preparation that has gone into footballs worst kept secret.

Through joining forces, they have in turn made the announcement seem more authentic, passionate and interesting.  The marketing team at United have clearly realised that football fans are interested in seeing footballers out of a footballing context.  And vice versa, the marketing team at Adidas understand that football fans have interests outside of the sport.

Adidas is currently half way through a £750 million, ten year sponsorship deal with United.  By joining an Adidas athlete, with an Adidas sponsored team, the brand is able to utilise all assets available to it, and Pogba is arguably now, its global face.

In contrast, some football fans are debating whether this is the direction they would like their clubs to go in, with a group of United fans seemingly unhappy about the dramatic announcement and incredible sum of money they are investing in one player.  Adidas on the other hand, must be rejoicing at the coverage and the forecast sales of United shirts with POGBA on the back.

It seems as though the lines between football and sponsorship activation are becoming increasingly  blurred.  Who knows the extent to which some brands will go.  If Ronaldo returns to the Premier League, what on earth would happen then!?

Further Reading