A large-scale and rigorous insight into what premium level customers are looking for from a VIP experience was commissioned by Manchester City Football Club in 2010 and is driving an imaginative approach to the premium spaces in Etihad Stadium. The club worked with two agencies to shape what Manchester City Football Club should invest in. Justice Ellis, Marketing Manager at Manchester City Football Club summarises:
At Manchester City Football Club we are ambitious on and off the pitch. We aim to be original and adventurous. It’s about understanding the spectrum of the market and providing a range that appeals across the market to different desires and ambitions.
In 2011 Manchester City Football Club introduced ‘experience’ boxes: the EA SPORTS Platinum Gaming Box, the Harvey Nichols Experience Box. These are exclusive spaces with balcony seating. Ellis explains:
Each has a rounded experience devised by the sponsor. For example the EA SPORTS box is a gaming zone with tournament chairs, EA titles to play and a dedicated EA Sports member of staff who is a game expert who can help visitors get to grips with the games and organise tournaments amongst the guests.
Visitors to the Harvey Nichols box might experience a wine or spirits masterclass for the gentlemen or hand massages and cocktails for the ladies.
The food offering matches the audience, from youngsters to stag events. The club’s new catering partnership with Jamie Oliver and Legends Hospitality, Fabulous Fan Fayre, provides catering for all hospitality and public concession areas.
Another important space is Eleven, which is a marketing suite that showcases the club’s hospitality, and on matchdays offers an intimate number of guests a unique, behind the scenes experience of watching the players and management team arrive and depart, directly from a floor-to-ceiling glass viewing gallery. Ellis adds:
What we provide is different from a flat product offer. The idea of ‘bespoke’ based on the guests has taken Manchester City Football Club into new territory. It opens up opportunities to bring a new clientele to the Etihad, people who wouldn’t immediately consider coming to a match.
For the current season, Manchester City Football Club relaunched its Citizens hospitality suite (pictured below). Seating is on level two on the halfway line, directly opposite the Players’ Tunnel and tactical area, giving Citizens patrons direct views of every moment of managerial magic and movement from the bench, throughout every twist and turn of the game.
In a first for UK stadiums, the club has introduced four new entertaining rooms situated at the back of the space, which are available for exclusive hire. The ‘Back Four’ combines Citizens’ relaxed environment with the comfort of a private box. When hired for the season, fans can dedicate their ‘Back Four’ box to their favourite defender in Manchester City’s history to create a truly personalised space within the Etihad Stadium. The new restaurant and bar seats up to 328 guests in an aspirational but comfortable space.
The recent transformation of VIP spaces resulted in the club winning the Best Football Club Hospitality award at the second annual Football Business Awards. Ellis concludes:
There’s a business case behind everything we do. Bringing in a wider mix of people immediately expands the customer base. The personalised experience demands a premium price. VIP fans can choose to sit in a high-end part of the stadium, get a pitchside tour or a signed shirt, get close to players, get insider experiences.
We are learning from the USA, from the NBA for instance, that it’s important to have a range of products that will appeal for special occasions.
Pictured: Manchester City Football Club staff receiving the award for Best Football Club Hospitality. Danny Wilson, Director of Sales, Service and Operations at Manchester City Football Club, said:
The club has grown from strength to strength and we’ve strived to ensure that our entire hospitality offering delivers consistently high standards and value for money for guests. We receive lots of great feedback about our dynamic hospitality spaces from guests each week, but it’s great to have our hard work recognised at a national awards ceremony.