Scoring a PR own goal

You may have seen an unusual story doing the rounds early last week courtesy of reigning Premier League Champions Manchester City. Worried that attendances for the club’s upcoming home games in the Champions League would be underwhelming due to the teams they were scheduled to face, the club took the unusual step of placing an advert on marketing platform Tribe asking for influencers to convince more people to attend the matches.

Interested influencers needed to have at least 5,000 followers and were asked to submit an image that showed off the atmosphere inside the ground.

A few things were unusual about this. First of all, the Champions League is widely regarded as the best, most competitive club football competition in the world. Secondly, premier league teams routinely sell out their tickets, so additional advertising isn’t usually required. And finally, the advert referred to the clubs City were due to face – Dynamo Zagreb, Shakhtar Donetsk and Atalanta – as ‘relatively unknown’, despite them being elite teams in their own countries.

Never ones to miss an opportunity to make fun of their rivals, football fans gleefully began mocking City’s desperate attempts to get more bums on seats at their home games, leaving the club with egg on its face.

It soon transpired that it wasn’t just people reading the story who were perplexed by the advert – Manchester City didn’t know anything about it either! The club’s PR agency had placed the ad on their behalf without telling them about it or asking for permission first. Needless to say, the club were not best pleased and severed all ties with the agency soon after.

As a PR professional, chasing permission from clients can be time consuming and frustrating, but the lesson here is clear – even if you think you have a brilliant idea, don’t pull the trigger on something without first getting the green light from the people paying your salary first.

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