Manchester United: Signing Usain Bolt Could Be A Marketing Masterstroke

The world's fastest man has reiterated his intention to sign up for Manchester United, a marketing ploy the Premier League giants would be foolish to turn down...
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The world's fastest man has reiterated his intention to sign up for Manchester United, a marketing ploy the Premier League giants would be foolish to turn down...

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Could Usain Bolt be the centre midfielder Manchester United is craving for? Of course not. Not even an Alex Ferguson hindered by the Glazers would sign a 25-year-old with no history of football pedigree, however, earlier this week Usain Bolt said if he got the call for a trial at United, he would not be able to say no.

It all seemed a bit of fun and games, until Rio Ferdinand said on Twitter that Sir Alex had said that if Usain was ready, then he would get the call. Not even the most naïve United fan would think Sir Alex has any inclination to sign Bolt, but could it potentially be a marketing masterstroke by the club?

Firstly, United would have some competition. Bolt appears to suffer from Robbie Keanitis – being a supporter of more than one club. Apart from being a huge Manchester United, Bolt is also a huge Real Madrid fan and dreams of being able to train with Madrid. So, you have to ask; would he be totally committed?

With news of a faltering IPO (not enough people stupid enough to take part in it) it would not surprise me if the Glazers, or their marketing men, did indeed allow Usain Bolt an hour or two at Carrington to show the world what he can do with a ball at his feet and try and use it to their advantage.

Usain Bolt said if he got the call for a trial at United, he would not be able to say no.

Puma, Bolt’s sponsors, estimate that his ‘media value’ is around €80million and has worldwide global fame which no other athlete in the world can match. In my eyes there are still some parts of the globe that could not recognise Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but after London 2012, EVERYONE will know who Usain Bolt is.

Potentially, if done right, and not made to look like a circus, Bolt could be convinced to be used as an advertising wagon for the IPO, or at the least to further boost the club’s appeal and name throughout the parts of the world where football still plays second/third/fourth fiddle (i.e. North America – which incidentally will be the place where most likely investors will come from). Even if they don’t use Bolt to help boost awareness of the IPO, they would be stupid not to take any advantage of it.

Billboards with Bolt in a Manchester United shirt with cheesy slogans about being the best in the world could be plastered ALL over the world and could be replicated on t-shirts, posters, postcards, you name it; anything. It is a potential gold mine, the most recognisable athlete in the world, marketing the most well known club in the world is surely too good an opportunity to miss? It will also persuade certain investors to buy into the IPO, and maybe even Bolt might be given some share options?

There will of course be potential stumbling blocks. Firstly, the fact it may make the club look like a desperate laughing stock is one. Will people be able to take us seriously if we actually allowed Usain Bolt a ‘trial’ at the club? I am not so sure. It is usually something small clubs do to try and get their names on the map and a few extra bums on seats; even then at least the celebrity is an ex-footballer of some sort. But this is Manchester United, are they really so desperate that they need to hire a celebrity to boost their image?

Potentially, if done right, and not made to look like a circus, Bolt could be convinced to be used as an advertising wagon for the IPO

Secondly, how would Puma feel seeing their star athlete, the face of their brand, being photographed in a training kit with the Nike logo very prominent? I doubt they would even allow him to do it – it is probably written in his very lucrative contract, and likewise would Nike be happy letting Usain Bolt be photographed training with United whilst wearing a Puma tracksuit? Again I highly doubt it. Furthermore, a fair few naysayers will point out that it could be a needless distraction and so on.

To be fair, I don’t like the idea of using him as a kind of media cow, particularly for the horrible IPO. But I honestly cannot see any harm in him going down to Carrington for a bit and having a kick around. He has of course been there before, but that was merely for a visit and a photo opportunity, more ‘look who we have got visiting us’ than ‘this is one bloody big marketing opportunity’.

If the club could somehow get him photographed with the ball at his feet or doing his world famous celebration, while in full Manchester United kit, then this could certainly be used as a bit of marketing genius. As mentioned, there are so many areas United could tap and use it as an opportunity to make money whilst also raising their profile. The Glazers would be stupid to miss the opportunity.

Despite all this, one question still lingers. Despite the glamour, despite the glitz, despite the Gold medals and despite the reputation; can Usain Bolt perform on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke?

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