The Social Media Brand Winners (and Losers) in Fergie’s Retirement

Kit Kat Hairdryer

Brand-jacking. Agile marketing. It’s the latest and greatest thing in social media marketing. Coral bookmakers got it spot on last summer when Robin Van Persie left Arsenal with a fast response on-the-ground stunt, and Oreo nailed it when the lights went out at the Superbowl with a now near legendary tweet.

And yesterday, as the news of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager of Manchester United broke on Twitter, there was another fantastic opportunity for some brand magic. But while the social fleet of foot were quick to react to the news with some quick (and quick-witted) responses, there were also some notable absences.

The Good…

Of the many brands trying to strike up conversations around the day’s headline news, Nando’s saw a fantastic reaction to its #NandosFergieTime tweets stating that it would be opening its Manchester restaurants for an additional five minutes, mocking opposing supporters beliefs that United are always afforded additional time in which to equalise or score a winner.


In perhaps the fastest response of the day, Golden Wonder* published a special edition ‘Golden Handshake’ packet design inside half an hour of the announcement, poking fun at Fergie’s pensioner status.

Golden Handshake Packet

And on Facebook, Kit Kat made reference to the infamous Ferguson dressing room ‘hairdryer’ treatment (pictured above), which he notoriously gave to under-performing players. Meanwhile, Premier Inn got in on the action by tweeting that, as a tribute to Fergie’s 26 yrs at United, customers can request a #FergieTime checkout this Sunday in Manchester to get an 26 extra minutes, while Hiring Bounty posted a reward of £99,000 if someone were to refer someone else successfully for the United manager’s position.

The Bad…

All these initiatives gained great responses and shares on Twitter and/or Facebook. But equally as talked about (if not more) was Wrigley’s, which gained over 1200 jibes on Twitter about it going out of business due to Fergie’s penchant for chewing gum continuously when around the football field (source: Brandwatch). And yet the brand was nowhere to be seen; a missed opportunity for some fantastic tongue-in-cheek social media buzz. And where were the hairdryer manufacturers? As Mark Perkins said on Twitter: “You guys are obviously all over Fergie retiring. If not you shouldn’t be in the game.” They shouldn’t.

And The Ugly…

And then there was Aon, Manchester United’s shirt sponsor. All it could muster was a (let’s be honest) mind-numbingly dull press release congratulating Ferguson on his retirement. “Aon…is also recognized as one of the leading firms on advising clients on the topics of retirement, talent development and succession planning”, it said. Jeesh…

So what are the rules of agile marketing? Why do some things fly and why do some things bomb? I’ll talk about some of the secrets of successful brand-jacking in my next post, so make sure you subscribe now in order not to miss it.

* Disclosure: Golden Wonder is a BOTTLE PR client
With thanks to Emily Leary, Rachel Miller, Paul Rayment & Barry Christie for their input.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

  • carolemscott

    To be fair to hairdryer brands, not sure their target audience is footie fans and so brand-jacking wouldn’t really fit here (young women/hairstyling). However, Wrigley’s and Aon – no excuse! And congrats on the Golden Handshake – nice one!

    • Paul Sutton

      Women like football too! :) More to the point though, Fergie was THE headline news yesterday (and arguably today too) and isn’t brand-jacking all about hijacking the news for brand buzz and awareness? If I’d have had a hairdryer brand I’d have been over that like a rash…whether they wanted me to or not! :)

  • Rob

    The Nandos tweet campaign was awful IMHO. Why do something that will alienate United fans? Don’t they want them to visit Nandos in Manchester?

    • Paul Sutton

      Really, Rob?! Surely United fans have a sense of humour! I think you may be doing many, many people a disservice there!

    • Barry Furby  (@barryfurby)

      I’m a United fan and thought Nandos campaign was brilliant, a bit cheeky, in good taste and well planned out, did you see it went further than twitter and they even made amends to opening times on their webpage.

      The other opportunity that I spotted was the bookies taking bets on Howard Webb to be his replacement, again quite cheeky, and in my eyes exactly the type of banter that I think brands should be taking part in with their communication.

      • Rob

        I think we have a consensus here. I have no sense of humour!

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