CRISTIANO RONALDO Player power
KEY PR PLAYERS reveal the amount and quash
Manchester United Director of rumours that the deal was
comms Phil Townsend dependent upon Real scooping
Real Madrid General commercial trophies. ‘The key thing was to
director Begona Sanz communicate that the money
Agent Jorge Mendes came in one payment,’ says
Townsend. ‘We felt we got the
The battle over controversial yet price we wanted and terms that
brilliant winger, winker and were beneﬁcial to the club.’
whinger Cristiano Ronaldo was It is likely Ronaldo had been
the ﬁrst big football transfer story grooming his image for some
of the season, culminating in his time in preparation for Real to
£80m move to Real Madrid. come knocking. The club is famed
Rumours linking the for signing global superstars and
Portuguese superstar and the Ronaldo has, in recent years,
erstwhile Galacticos had been turned himself into just that.
ﬂying around since 2007. Sir Alex ‘There is no bigger player in
Ferguson was famously quoted football than Ronaldo,’ says
saying he would not sell Real Cli ord. ‘He has been built up as a
Madrid ‘a virus’ but in June this year brand.’ A string of post-transfer
the Spanish giant made an o er stories linking the player to,
United could not refuse, not least among others, Hollywood heiress
because of the player himself. Paris Hilton, further bolstered his
‘The club was very aware international playboy image.
Ronaldo had said it was his
dream to play for Real,’ says James STATS
Cli ord, co-founder of Cli ord Cristiano Ronaldo is not a popular
French. ‘He was very vocal in bunny among UK football fans.
saying he wanted to go.’ Just 4% felt he conducted
From Manchester United’s himself well, and 35% said he
perspective, director of comms behaved very poorly. But UK fans
Phil Townsend says the challenge never thought much of Ronaldo
was staying ahead of the media. in the ﬁrst place – 50% said
‘The bid came through in the their opinion of him was about
evening; by 9.30am the following the same, with a further 23%
Playboy image morning we had a statement saying their opinion was much
Cristiano Ronaldo out.’ The club took the decision to less favourable.
The comms strategy
behind a football transfer
can be crucial to a player’s
reputation, find Arun
Sudhaman and Cathy Wallace
20 PRWeek 21 August 2009
Football transfer sagas Sport
oday’s transfer window is
JOHN TERRY The one that got away
big business. Much has
changed since the days
when football deals were KEY PR PLAYERS as slightly unsettling Terry.’ Manchester City project,
concluded over a hand- Manchester City PR chief Vicky Terry eventually broke his after negative coverage
shake and a cigar; transfers Kloss. Club owner Abu Dhabi silence to conﬁrm he would be of its attempt to sign
are now subject to the same level of scrutiny United Group retains Edelman staying at Chelsea. Greenberg Brazilian superstar Kaka
as any major financial transaction.Add in Chelsea Director of comms and refuses to accept the long earlier in the year.
the obsession with football in this country, public a airs Simon Greenberg silence was the wrong policy. ‘When City went
and it becomes easy to understand the imp- Agent Aaron Lincoln ‘As long as you are certain for Kaka, it became
ortance of the comms strategies used by your line is right, you have a joke,’ says a
clubs and players involved in a transfer. Ironically, the deal that attracted to stick to it,’ he says. ‘We source familiar
‘The business of football is becoming as most attention during the summer were not prepared to with City’s
important as football itself,’ says Hill & was not consummated, with give a running comms
Knowlton sports MD Andy Sutherden. Manchester City’s billionaires failing commentary. operation. ‘But people
‘This has made the transfer window much in their audacious attempt to land We feel the are now realising it is
more newsworthy than it used to be.’ England captain John Terry. appropriate deadly serious.’
Deploy the right comms strategy, and City’s comms strategy was a course of action Not for sale
your club could nab the player of its dreams reﬁned variant on a traditional was the one John Terry STATS
at a knock-down price.Get it wrong,and you favourite. The longer Terry kept his we took.’ Terry’s reputation
could see your prized asset depart in a huff silence, the more widespread the The announcement slipped, with 32%
of ill-will. ‘If you are selling a player, you interpretation that he was angling was made via Chelsea’s of UK football fans
don’t want a rift,’ says Chelsea FC comms for a move. website and TV channel. viewing the Chelsea veteran
and public affairs director Simon Green- ‘City used the media very cleverly,’ The story also illustrated less favourably now. 42%
berg. ‘In terms of bringing a player in, you says Synergy deputy MD Dominic the increasing disapproved of his conduct,
want to assist the transfer.That could mean Curran. ‘Some of the comments respect being compared with 27% who
being part of the negotiation process.’ [Man City manager] Mark Hughes a orded felt he conducted himself
The proliferation of media sources, made could have been construed to the positively.
which now include club-owned TV chan-
nels, online fan forums, social media sites
and newspapers, also poses challenges for
the savvy PRO. Dominic Curran, deputy DARREN BENT A Twitter tirade
MD of sports sponsorship agency Synergy,
says: ‘There’s no live football to report on so KEY PR PLAYERS Darren Bent’s £10m move from In the wake of Bent’s ‘twansfer’,
the only story is who’s going where.’ Tottenham Hotspur In-house PR Tottenham Hotspur to Sunderland many wonder if clubs will tighten
Clubs have responded by using their own led by executive director Donna- is probably football’s ﬁrst ‘twansfer’. up their social media policies. Spurs
media platforms to manage the message. Marie Cullen The striker demonstrated the denies any such moves are afoot.
‘It’s always best to start with the fanatical Sunderland Media and comms power of social media by taking ‘Not only is it impossible to
supporter base and ripple the story out,’ manager Louise Wanless to Twitter to vent his discontent control this, it is also not something
says Sutherden. ‘The highest risk of nega- about the pace of negotiations. we would want to do,’ says Spurs
tive gossip starts from the less passionate Attacking his club chairman Daniel executive director Donna-Marie
fans who are taking a little bit of info and Levy, the action cost Bent a hefty Cullen. ‘Our policy has always been
turning it into a much bigger story on ﬁne, but the 25-year-old later and will continue to be that we
their social media platforms.’ admitted it helped him complete expect players not to bring the
Ultimately, the way in which trans- the transfer. name of the club into disrepute in
fers now dominate the media agenda ‘It will lead to players being able any way and to behave in a
calls for some sophisticated PR think- to inﬂuence clubs more on their professional manner. This
ing. With this in mind, PRWeek ran the own movements,’ says Synergy expectation applies across all
rule over six summer blockbuster deals, deputy MD Dominic Curran. forms of media.’
complete with exclusive research by It also demonstrated that
Braben Sport/Football Fans Census into players are also publishers, with STATS
how the players’ reputations fared. the ability to generate their own 49% of respondents felt Bent
messages in accordance with conducted himself poorly during
Watch key ﬁgures from the sports their own agendas. ‘The media the transfer window, compared
world discuss how PR is changing are loving the idea of fans and with just 15% who approved.
the face of football coverage at
players being publishers,’ 33% had a less favourable opinion
prweek.com/uk explains H&K sports MD of the player. Just 10% saw their
Andy Sutherden. opinions of Bent improve.
21 August 2009 PRWeek 21
Football transfer sagas Sport
CARLOS TEVEZ Singing the blues
KEY PR PLAYERS Much was made of developing between
Manchester City PR chief Vicky Tevez’s dissatisfaction Tevez and Ferguson.
Kloss. Club owner Abu Dhabi United with his treatment by ‘The problem for United
Group retains Edelman Manchester United boss is that Tevez had fan
Manchester United Director of Sir Alex Ferguson. His power,’ adds the source.
comms Phil Townsend agent Kia Joorabchian, ‘But I’m not sure what
Agent Kia Joorabchian is advised by aided and abetted by PR City boy at heart more it could have done.
Phil Hall man Phil Hall, played a Carlos Tevez What must it be like trying to brief Sir
pivotal role in shaping the Alex Ferguson?’
It is rare for a player at the peak of story – which eventually ended with ‘Our position is always to make sure
his career to leave the red half of Tevez’s arrival at Manchester City. the player’s reputation doesn’t get STATS
Manchester for their bitter blue rivals, ‘Joorabchian wants to be known by tainted by the wild rumours,’ says Hall. 43% of UK football fans thought Tevez
but Argentinean Carlos Tevez trod this professional players as the man who The Tevez deal illustrated the role conducted himself poorly or worse.
very path in one of the summer’s most can get the best deal for them,’ says a agents now play in transfer deals. It 38% said their opinion of Tevez was
contentious deals. PR insider involved in the deal. also revealed a considerable rift less favourable after the transfer.
MICHAEL OWEN Return to glory?
KEY PR PLAYERS rumoured to be in talks with lowly defending his skills,’ says Rachel
Newcastle United Head of media Hull and Stoke before Sir Alex Froggatt, director of sport at Braben.
Gary Oliver Ferguson brought him back to the
Manchester United Director of top of the Premiership. STATS
comms Phil Townsend Much was made of the Owen was the only player to come
Agent Wasserman Media Group 34-page brochure the out of the transfer window with his
Wasserman Media Group The hard sell Michael Owen reputation boosted, not diminished.
Michael Owen’s free transfer from sent out extolling the In total 41% of UK football fans
relegated and shambolic Newcastle virtues of its client. ‘There was tactic, but Owen was getting bad press. ’ thought he conducted himself very
United to champions Manchester negative press about how injury- The brochure, a tactic employed well, and a further 27% felt he
United takes the phrase ‘landing on prone Owen was, but this reminded by lower-league players but virtually conducted himself well. 26% said
your feet’ to a whole new level. prospective buyers about his unheard of in a player of Owen’s their opinion of the player was more
The injury-prone striker, a former impressive career record,’ says Ian calibre, drew attention to his qualities. favourable following the transfer, and
Real Madrid player and England’s Foster, editor of Match of the Day ‘It achieved an enormous amount a further 13% said their opinion was
third highest scorer of all time, was magazine. ‘It seemed a desperate of coverage, with media and fans alike much more favourable.
EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR A harmonious deal
KEY PR PLAYERS Sutherden says: ‘That deal was agreed where this deal was concerned was
Arsenal FC Head of comms Amanda in 20 minutes, a rare example of club, Sir Alex Ferguson’s allegation that
Docherty player, agent and departing club all Adebayor had been ‘desperate’ to join
Manchester City PR chief Vicky being aligned behind a common goal.’ either his club or Chelsea.
Kloss. Club owner Abu Dhabi United Arsenal FC head of comms
Group retains Edelman Amanda Docherty notes the club’s STATS
Agent Phil Smith general policy is to not engage with A remarkable 59% felt Adebayor
transfer speculation: ‘It may push up conducted himself poorly or worse
Togo international Emmanuel a player’s price or alert other clubs to during the transfer, compared with
Adebayor’s £25m move from Arsenal the player.’ just 8% who approved of the Togo
to Manchester City stands out as the ‘The quieter it is in the transfer build- star’s behaviour. Similarly, the deal led
summer’s smoothest deal. up, the bigger the publicity is when to a less favourable opinion of the
PR professionals point to the you get a player signed,’ says a source player from 50% of the fans polled –
deal as an example of harmonised involved in the Adebayor transfer. compared with just 4% whose On message
messaging. H&K sports MD Andy Perhaps the only ﬂy in the ointment opinions of him improved. Emmanuel Adebayor
Online survey of 1,062 football fans representing 119 teams, carried out on 4-5 August by Football Fans Census on behalf of Braben Sport / PRWeek
21 August 2009 PRWeek 23