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Umbro – From Zero to Hat-Trick Hero With Social Media

by on August 12, 2010

Perhaps it’s because Umbro can’t easily be turned into a catchy acronym for loving sports like their competitor Adidas (All Day I Dream About Soccer).

Maybe it’s because Umbro makes the kit for hometown also-ran Manchester City, while Manchester United, popular around the world, boasts the Nike Swoosh. Nike purchased Umbro in 2007, while Man U has just seemed to own their crosstown rivals for much of the last decade or two.

Regardless, Umbro, once the world’s leading supplier of soccer clothing, has fallen on some tough times.

In response, the Manchester-based company has turned to social media in an effort to right the ship. As you might expect from a company looking to boost its reputation with a large audience, Umbro is pretty much anywhere you’d want to be including Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, and interacting with its audience well.

What is interesting is the evolution of their approaches to increase participation online, that have grown from the uninspired to the innovative.

Their first attempt (shown) can be considered the baseline of their efforts because while it reached a large audience, it didn’t offer any kind of explanation of what Umbro had to offer online (i.e. it was pretty lame). During a widely-watched Manchester Derby in January, Umbro posted a scrolling advertisement pitch-side announcing “Follow us at” Even though Umbro put its Twitter page out to roughly 47,000 soccer fans present at the game, and a significantly larger audience watching at home, it failed to really give its audience any compelling reason to connect with them on Twitter.

(Thanks to Nick Burcher for the photo)

Still, as a result of the game, they gained more than 4,000 followers. According to one blogger’s calculations, that came out to roughly one pound of spending per follower, which isn’t much, particularly considering that it was the beginning of a campaign to build the Umbro brand leading into the World Cup. In the end, even though Umbro gained a decent sized audience, the efforts certainly lacked the imagination and creativity that may have significantly increased the response.

In May, Umbro again made an in road into social media. At another Manchester City game, Umbro challenged City supporters (Citizens, to those in the know) to break the record for check-ins on Foursquare at a single event. The failed to break the record, but were able to get just more than 100 fans to check in from City of Manchester Stadium. Umbro also offered a free t-shirt to 11 of the fans that checked in, and everyone earned the “Swarm” badge for joining the event. Interesting, but still not an overwhelming amount of imagination.

With the World Cup, however, Umbro unveiled a unique Twitter monitoring page, Terrace Tweets. The page shows tweets during a game, attempting to show “who wins off the pitch as well as on it.” Terrace Tweets also shows the pictures that are being shared about the game and shows the actual statistics from the game. All in all, it’s a great way to follow how fans are reacting to the game online. It was last used for USA v England, and you can still view how the game progressed on Twitter by replaying the feed, which is pretty cool.

Looking back, Umbro seems to have used the first half of 2010 as a testing period to see what works and what doesn’t while building the audience.

Looking ahead they promise to continue to offer ways to interact with their audience online, and if they can build on the creativity and originality they used to create Terrace Tweets, or their new iPhone app “Umbro Chants,” they should take strides to regain their once proud status.


From → United Kingdom

  1. erinnd permalink

    I hope that Umbro can really get a hold of their social media efforts. It seems that they set high expectations too soon when they tried to break the record of check-ins at a single event on Foursquare (I would have liked to know the record they were trying to break). From your post, it seems like they are heading in the right direction – good luck Umbro!

  2. Interesting take on Umbro’s efforts and how they have evolved over time. It was a good question that you posed in this article around how they could continue to evolve and do more. There were also two big things that you mentioned about Umbro that raised some big questions for the readers of the post. The first was that this is a brand that has many loyal followers and enthusiasts – yet none of the efforts you mentioned really seem to tap that passion of their current customer base. How else could they be doing this? The second is that it may come as a surprise to many loyal Umbro fans (myself included) that they are now owned by Nike (which seems like it may be a big contradiction for some). Not mentioning or looking at this point left that also as a big unanswered question in your post this week … sort of a virtual version of driving past someone who left their gas tank cover open. You want them to close it just like I felt like that was a core part of this struggle that Umbro has which you raised that warranted some discussion. It’s a good reminder to put yourself in the shoes of your readers and make sure that you do get to address the big questions that you raise. (4)

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