Olympics expert Jon Tibbs wins Manchester United PR challenge

You wouldn’t think Manchester United would be much of a challenge, heading for a record 19th UK Premiership title and more than half-way to this year’s Champion’s League final at Wembley but it undoubtedly is.

The reason, of course, is the phenomenal unpopularity of owners the Florida-based Glazer family and the huge amounts of debt (about £700m) with which they’ve lumbered the previously unburdened club.

Now it’s been revealed that it the club appointed Jon Tibbs Associates back in January to work with club spin doctor Phil Townsend to build the brand’s international profile and, presumably, revenues.

Man U has a pretty high international profile as it is of course but much of this doubtless reflects the unpopularity of the Glazers, with continuing stories about fans’ protests and the possibility of rival bidders for the club including Jim O’ Neill’s ‘Red Knights’ and Qatar Holdings.

Tibbs, who formerly headed up the sports operations at Bell Pottinger and Hill & Knowlton in the UK, is an Olympics expert, working on the successful Beijing 2008 bid and the equally controversial award of the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi in Russia’s Caucasus mountains.

It’s interesting that news of the appointment has leaked out today, with United on a roll after beating German team Schalke 04 2-0 in the first away leg of the Champion’s League semi final.

This roll could come to a sudden end of course in the final at Wembley when Sir Alex Ferguson’s team (the choleric Sir Alex can be a bit of a spin doctor’s nightmare) come up against one of Barcelona or Real Madrid.

If it were to be Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid and star forward Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner then Tibbs and Townsend would be right back in the trenches as Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid by Man U for £80m a couple of years ago to spruce up the profit and loss figures.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.