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Professional sports teams in general seem to leave much to be desired when it comes to digital marketing.

They all seem to have overly complicated looking websites with giant splash pages, big background images and loads of advertising.

Many teams also seem to follow no best practices when it comes to email marketing, with hard to find sign-up forms, no segmentation and terrible designs.

There is one sports team which continually scores highly in my books, though: Manchester City Football Club. Here’s what I like.

Easy to find email sign-up call-to-action

Sign up form


You’d be surprised how hard it is to find the email sign-up form on most of the other Premier League team websites. It seems like most of them don’t want you to join their mailing list. Man City make it easy with this big, bold call-to-action on their homepage.

Unfortunately, the sign-up process isn’t as smooth as I would hope, with 12 mandatory fields to fill out on the sign-up form. As we’ll see later, they do at least use some of the data that they collect.

Excellent email design


Other Premier League teams could definitely take a lesson from Man City on email design and coding. They have all of the elements I would expect to see in a best practice newsletter template, including:

  • Pre-header text.
  • Navigation.
  • Social media integration.
  • Primary message with just the right amount of text.
  • Customized calls-to-action.
  • Great text-image ratio.

The main thing that they could do to improve their design is to optimize it for mobile devices. A responsive design would work really well with their current layout. 

Interesting content


Most sports teams take a very narrow view when it comes to email content, focusing on game results, new players and interviews. Man City, of course, include a lot of content about what’s happening on the field as well, but they also include exclusive behind the scenes videos, competitions and social media content.

This content feels like it would appeal to a much broader audience and seems more likely to create a sense of community among fans. Even if you were a casual City fan, you’d probably still enjoy reading their newsletters.

Detailed safe sender instructions

To ensure that Man City fans are receiving their newsletters, a dedicated email asking subscribers to whitelist their email addresses was sent earlier this year (possibly because they changed the addresses they were sending from).

I’ve seen this done many times before but never with such attention to detail. The above email explains why subscribers should do this, what they can expect to receive from Man City in the future and best of all, highly detailed instructions on how to do it for eight of the most popular email clients.

Take a look at the instructions and you can see that adding an email address to your address book isn’t the easiest thing to do, so I’m sure many subscribers found this useful. A link to this email can now be found within the header of all Man City emails for future reference – that’s smart!

Relevant birthday emails

Man City sends one of the best birthday emails I’ve ever seen. Not only do they wish you a happy birthday, they also customize it with facts about the club from the year you were born, which makes this email so much more interesting.

They top it off with a two-for-one deal on stadium tours. 

Rate our emails


I think I’ve outlined fairly well why I think Man City have the best email marketing in the Premier League. So it’s good to see that it isn't becoming complacent.

The most recent emails have been asking subscribers to rate them so that they can continue to make improvements to their design and content.

This is an unbiased article! Just in case you’re wondering if I’m a hard core Man City fan, I’m not. I’m more like Roy and Moss from the IT Crowd: did you see that ludicrous display last night? 

Andrew King

Published 28 August, 2013 by Andrew King

Andrew is senior strategy consultant at Lyris and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can read his blog here, or follow on Twitter.  

5 more posts from this author

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Nani

Hi, can I have the URL for the email survey that Manchester City Football club did?

over 3 years ago

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Aristocracy

As a United fan this is really going to pain me to say this, but I'm really impressed with Manchester City Marketing as a whole, their social offering surpasses any other club I've seen and their emails are really top notch. I love the CTA for the HTML version "Can't see Dzeko? Click here". I may have to "borrow" some ideas!

over 3 years ago

Andrew King

Andrew King, Sr. Strategy Consultant at Lyris

@Nani there you go - http://www.clicktools.com/dashboard/survey/response.jsp

@Aristocracy I agree, little things like the customised view online CTA are great!

over 3 years ago

Rupert Adam

Rupert Adam, Senior Marketing Executive at Emailcenter

I agree. Man City's whole digital marketing offering is top notch.

I wrote a blog post a few years ago about the emails sent by the Premiership teams at the time. Man City were not doing any email marketing back then, so came second from bottom of the league.

http://www.emailcenteruk.com/blog/2011/08/premier-league-table-of-email-marketing/

Newcastle came bottom, because sometimes doing something really bad, is worse than doing nothing at all!

over 3 years ago

Andy Williams

Andy Williams, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

Man City are seriously ahead of the rest.

Basing this on the offering of my team, Arsenal, this is just a class above. Hopefully this benchmark will be met by others in the Sports industry. Considering the fan base of these clubs it's quite surprising that more clubs haven't aimed to improve.

over 3 years ago

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David Ansell, Senior Marketing Executive at Top Right Group

Football clubs marketing departments are run shockingly as they know the fans will be fans for a lifetime and they dont bother improving their services.

Man City are the first example I have seen where this is not the case and this is a great example of getting information to their customers in a fun and value effective way.

Well done Man city marketing.

over 3 years ago

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Ewan S.

As a Man UTD fan, it's through gritted teeth that I concede Man City's email offering is pretty slick! Obviously someone over there realises the crucial part email marketing can play in driving retention.

Nice to see the site assets carried through to the email to ensure viewers instantly recognise the sender/content.

Just a shame they're negating their signup conversion rates with 12 fields of data on the form!

Still, props where props are due :)

over 3 years ago

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Visakan Veerasamy, Marketing at ReferralCandy

I find myself in agreement with David Ansell- football clubs can afford to be rather inefficient with their marketing, because a fan who loves the club will go through a lot to signup, while a non-fan wouldn't necessarily be persuaded by the slickest, most stylish campaign.

Still cool to observe and think about, though.

over 3 years ago

Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish, Commercial Director at DataIQ

I think that on one side David's comment is true; why should they try very hard when they know the fans will be fans for life?

As true as that maybe, that shouldn't be where marketing for football clubs stops.

The marketing and specifically the online teams should think like retailers - most have a club shop as part of their website so why not looking at how they can better turn fans into customers? Then repeat customers?

I'm a bit of a fair weather football supporter which is why I follow Arsenal. I have been to one game in my 28 years which is pretty shocking, but I am much more likely to buy a something from their store than go to a game (and most of the shirts are cheaper than a match day ticket at the Emirates anyway!). What about fans that live long distances from London - they may well be the same? Any that live abroad?

Beyond that there is hospitality sales, events, charity work, PR etc

These are things that fans should be made aware of and the marketing team should be working extra hard to generate revenue from these alternate avenues.

Great post for transfer deadline day! ;)

over 3 years ago

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Les

Craig, was interested to read your review from a few years back. Unfortunately the newsletters couldn't be viewed. However, the 404 pages on your site are brilliant - very funny and cheered me up on a bleak Tuesday. I know its off topic but had to let you know.

over 3 years ago

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Ravi

Very well comprehended Andrew.

I am a united fan on field and now a Man City fan for their well detailed approach towards email marketing.

The email is designed pretty well, specially the text and image ratio and the easy navigation playing an important role to manage their subscribers' interest in their content.

In my opinion, keeping 'Rate our emails' link at a prominent position is helping them get some fruitful insights about their user behavior and is helping them improve over changing digital phase.

City's emails can be of great inspirations to other clubs. I wish they too read this post and start implementing few tips from them. Would love to see more and more clubs offering such an experience to their fans.

One thing to add, they are not using the Johnson's box to its potential. If they can highlight some offer/promotion there, they may end up converting a reader into customer.

Happy to come across the post :)

over 3 years ago

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David Hazzard

Disappointed they arent responsive.

I am a subscriber, and the content looks like they are only a step away from this.

The design, layout and brand are exceptionally strong, the message is really clear and the imagery top notch.

over 3 years ago

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mahender nath, Internet marketing at www.emperiumepos.com

Great Tips. really usefull

about 3 years ago

Rupert Adam

Rupert Adam, Senior Marketing Executive at Emailcenter

Thanks Les. I am very pleased with our 404 page.

http://www.emailcenteruk.com/404

about 3 years ago

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