Manchester United has announced a new digital transformation programme as it seeks to improve the customer experience for its 659m fans worldwide.

The Premier League club has partnered with Indian tech giant HCL to build an innovation lab at Old Trafford to prototype new digital ideas.

Digital presents a huge opportunity for Man United to engage with its fans across the world who might never be able to see a live game, particularly in emerging markets that tend to be mobile-first.

Manchester United’s group managing director Richard Arnold said that the club plans to change the way it interacts with its community around the world by improving the experience at Old Trafford, on the website and via its social channels.

It already has a strong presence on social media, including on China’s Sina Weibo, but the hope is that the new innovation lab will identify new ways of engaging with fans, who will be brought in at an early stage to help develop new digital products.

One might suggest that the decision was in part influenced by the brilliant social marketing undertaken by rivals Manchester City, with Arnold stating that Manchester United wants to create a model for other businesses to aspire towards.

HCL CEO Anant Gupta also spoke at the launch event and cited five key themes that form part of the digital transformation programme:

  • It will be experience-centric for Manchester United’s fan.
  • An agile and lean approach, enabling the company to deliver services faster.
  • The creation of an eco-system of companies coming together from different industries to improve the value proposition.
  • Building a service-centric organisation.
  • Focus on the outcome and not the input.

What does this mean for Manchester United?

At this stage we don’t know how this programme will develop or what digital products will emerge from the partnership with HCL. The innovation lab itself will not even be open for several months yet.

A lot was made at the launch of how big HCL is in terms of its annual revenues, but the company is quite secretive about it’s previous digital transformation projects and the type of innovations that emerge from its existing labs.

It has six other labs worldwide but will only divulge the location of the one in London that caters to its banking clients.

Nonetheless, if the outcomes of this partnership match the sky high aspirations then the results will be truly remarkable.

HCL's Krishnan Chatterjee spoke about creating a continuous loop of innovation in the mould of Uber and Amazon, with the club eventually becoming the centre of an ecosystem that includes its fans and sponsors.

So it would seem that the ultimate aspiration is for Manchester United to become its own social network for fans around the world. 

If you're struggling with Digital Transformation in your organisation then you should check out Econsultancy's digital transformation services page and talk to to the team about how we can help.

David Moth

Published 4 September, 2015 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (2)


James Barber, Head of Ecommerce at BoroughBox Ltd

My cynical view as a Man Utd fan is that this is merely the club looking for more sponsorship money - HCL's logo is now shown on as prominently as the club badge is. I wouldn't be surprised if HCL are paying the club a substantial amount of money to be linked but without much focus on the actual innovation lab.

I hope that I'm wrong though, the United site has been dated for quite some time, a club of our size should be pushing boundaries more and leading the way.

almost 3 years ago


Rupert Pratt, Managing Director at Generate Sponsorship

You're probably right James, but as with any B2B sponsorship HCL will be looking to turn this into a leading case study to demonstrate the strength and depth of its services to future clients. If its not, then its a waste of both parties time and money!

almost 3 years ago

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