Posts Tagged ‘Tampa Bay Buccaneers’

Not Buying In: Manchester United Fans Boycott Sponsors, Send Message to Ownership

Sports fans are among the most loyal and intense people you can find.  How else to explain people showing up to support a team that hasn’t won a championship in over a century? (Looking at you, Cubs fans)

But just because sports fans are loyal doesn’t mean they always agree with every decision their favorite team makes. Case in point: Manchester United fans calling for a boycott of sponsors’ products to persuade ownership to rethink its plans of a shirt sponsorship deal with General Motors. United fans are reportedly unhappy about the British club’s association with an American company, preferring to keep the Red Devils in ties with local companies only.

Manchester United fans are loyal, but a boycott shows they have a mind of their own.

This isn’t the first time ManU fans have voiced displeasure with ownership over the club’s business. Malcolm Glazer, an American businessman who also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has owned United for almost 10 years but fell into $1.6 billion debt in 2010 stemming from loans related to their shopping mall businesses in the U.S. The Glazer family has not been popular with Manchester United fans, who have pressured Glazer to sell the team to a more interested and trustworthy owner.

Co-sponsorship deals often put fans in unusual situations. On the one hand, supporting a product or sponsor associated with a team generally means you are helping the business interest of your team. More money typically leads to more success. But some owners only care about the bottom line rather than results. So just because you put your money into sponsors doesn’t mean your favorite team will win more. In fact, it could send the wrong message to ownership that wins and losses don’t have an impact on revenue and income.

That’s what makes the boycott by ManU fans interesting. The message has been sent to ownership that club supporters will not be blind sheep and will not buy into everything the ownership tries to sell to them. Not seeing fans open their wallets is sure to get the attention of ownership and prompt change.

A similar scenario is unfolding in Boston. The Red Sox were purchased in 2003 by John Henry, a trading advisor who had previously held partial ownership of the Yankees and Marlins. Since Henry took over the club, the Sox have enjoyed remarkable success, winning two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 and enjoying the longest consecutive home sellout streak in U.S. sports history.

But all is not well in Red Sox Nation. Henry, since buying the Sox, has also obtained ownership of NESN, NASCAR teams, and most notably Liverpool FC, a major European soccer club. With multiple business interests, Henry’s time devoted to the Red Sox seems to have waned, as has on-field performance. The Sox have not won a playoff game since 2008, and last season endured a 7-20 month of September to miss the playoffs, one of the worst collapses in sports history. This season Boston is hovering at .500 but doesn’t have the look of a playoff team. All the while, the front office has remained quiet, save for an open letter of confidence sent to Sox fans by team president Larry Lucchino.

So what is a Sox fan to do? It seems clear the dual-ownership experiment is not working out at the moment, and many are calling for Henry and company to make a change. But the best way for Sox fans to get the attention of ownership is to do what United fans did and boycott the product. That means stop going to games (and break the sellout streak), stop watching games, stop buying merchandise, etc. When ownership sees numbers dipping, they know they will need a change. Asking this is a tough thing for Red Sox fans to do, however. Fans were rewarded for 86 years of faith with the 2004 championship, and even though the current club is treading water it remains within striking distance of a wild card spot. Besides, stopping support aimed at management change creates a negative impact on players, who have no say in ownership decisions.

Manchester United fans have made it clear they want change and have put their money where their mouths are. Unless things change quickly at Fenway Park, restless Red Sox fans may be taking a cue from restless Red Devils fans across the pond.

Photo (cc) by Paolo Camera and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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