A while ago I wrote about soccer (i.e. football) and commercial sponsorships. A month later I learned that Manchester United was planning to go public on the New York Stock Exchange, which made Casillero del Diablo’s advertising that it was the “official wine partner” of Manchester United seem almost prescient. The company had apparently placed itself in a good position to ride the coat tails of ManU’s global media push.

What Casillero del Diablo didn’t count on was the Glazer family’s inability to comprehend where the actual financial value of ManU comes from: the consumers of the ManU product.

On Thursday, The Guardian posted “Manchester United’s New York setback exposes failings of Glazers plan,” by Stuart James. The piece nicely describes the IPO that the Glazers had planned, and how it would offer no value to buyers (you really wouldn’t be able to call them “investors” based on the terms proposed).

A first IPO had already failed in Asia, where a rabid fan base exists. Fans in Asia have committed suicide when they were not able to secure tickets for the team’s exhibition matches. All that  the Glazers seem to understand is that they are currently owners of an internationally valuable trademark, and that the next best place to exploit that would be the NYSE. But not many people in the U.S. care about the sport or that team in particular. NASCAR, on the other hand, would be a smash hit IPO.

What the Glazers do not understand is that a brand exists only in the mind of the customer/consumer. And that makes a brand ephemeral. The definition of ephemeral is “short-lived,” but we know there are hundred-year-old brands, and older. What ephemeral refers to is that as soon as you disenfranchise the consumer—the individual who gives your product or trademark brand status—this asset loses value.

Being ephemeral is worse than being intangible. Patents are intangible, but they have a guaranteed shelf-life. And the Glazers don’t seem to grasp that you cannot just milk a brand for revenue without also nurturing the brand consumer, which is the process that gives a brand longevity.

Customer satisfaction gives your brand life and keeps it alive.

(Innovation helps, too, but that’s based on “utility” which is unique to each consumer.)

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