Ferguson RetiredSam Reid,InventionWorldwide10/5/2013BackgroundAt 9:17am on Wednesday 8thMay, Manchester United’s Press Office (@ManUtd_PO) sent out a shorttweet explaining that Sir Alex Ferguson had retired as Manchester United manager after 26 and ahalf years, accompanied with #ThankYouSirAlex.Within the hour the tweet had been repeated 18,000 times and there were 1.4m mentions of thestory on Twitter, taking eight of the 10 UK trending topic spots, and four of the 10 worldwidetrends. In an era where brands want, and need, to be part of the consumer conversation, this wasthe perfect opportunity to capture the moment.DetailsBrands that have an official affiliation with Manchester United would have a legitimate reason to jointhe Twitter conversation, demonstrating their partnership with the club and providing anauthoritative opinion. Some sponsors decided against activating in the social space, which is nocriticism. Given the huge interest on Twitter, perhaps some brands felt they that would refrainfrom commenting as they wouldn’t be adding value to the conversation. However, those that didactivate lacked the imagination required to cut through the clutter – SHARP mentioned an unofficialManchester United twitter account in their message, whilst Thomas Cook’s #SirFergieHoliday didn’tcapture the public’s imagination (4 RTs).Brands not officially associated with Manchester United were free to provide the type of reactivemarketing that this story allowed. Nando’s kept their Manchester restaurants open for an extra fiveminutes yesterday evening, calling it #NandosFergieTime. The announcement garnered in excessof 16,000 RTs (about half the number @ManUtd_PO received), whilst mentions praised andendorsed the restaurant chain; there has since been subsequent national PR from the activityPaddy Power was at its best on Twitter, releasing light-hearted messages as the day unfolded,intertwined of course with its Next Manager specials. The activation drove over 1,000 newfollowers on the day, along with sizeable traffic to site.ImplicationsEver since Oreo released details of its ‘Dunk in the Dark’ activation, explaining that the brand had awhole host of creatives and clients in a room watching the Super Bowl, the emphasis for brands hasbeen how to maximise the ‘in the moment’ activity.Brands that simply prepare and activate content calendars planned weeks in advance will quicklystart to fall behind in social, and the emphasis will be on immediate response. Sport is a live show,so brands must be prepared to activate at a moment’s notice.SummaryActivation by the likes of Nando’s and Paddy Power just go to show that, given the right messagingand adding value to the conversation, timing is everything. Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement cannotbe compared to Oreo’s Super Bowl activity (a planned event), but it is just another example thatsocial media, and especially Twitter, is the perfect environment in which brands should play if theywish to join the consumer conversation – however it is key that they activate in a way that cutsthrough the clutter and captures the moment.