Brand Strategy

How off-pitch experiences—and ‘Ted Lasso’—help Man City win with fans worldwide

The Premier League club has built an international following by leaning into IRL experiences and cultural tentpoles.
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Screenshot via @ManCity on X

· 5 min read

It hasn’t been easy to get many Americans to sit down to watch soccer matches outside of tentpole international events like the World Cup. But shows and movies about soccer? Well, that’s a different story.

Manchester City FC knows the power that kind of programming can have on building its fandom outside of its home base in Manchester, England. The Premier League club has an in-house production studio, an esports team, an Amazon Prime Video docuseries, and a robust social media presence—and it was also one of the first Premier League teams to agree to be in the Apple TV+ hit series Ted Lasso during Season 1, before anyone knew how successful the show would be, club CMO Nuria Tarre said.

“We see ourselves as a sports entertainment brand,” Tarre told Marketing Brew.

During the 2022–2023 season, Man City clocked a total audience of 786 million across all of its competitions, up 28% from the prior season, according to its annual report. Tarre said that 99% of the club’s followers live outside the UK—a somewhat surprising stat that’s possible because of Man City’s presence on and off the pitch.

“We know that most of our followers and fans will never, ever make it to Manchester. Their experience is watching games on TV, or following us on social media, or in content,” she said. “From that perspective, having a strategy that constantly looks at how we engage with fans around the world is fundamental.”


Some die-hard international fans will shell out to attend a Man City game in person, but since not every fan will experience any of the 55,000 seats in Etihad Stadium, Man City focuses on bringing in-person experiences to key markets like the US.

“We invest a lot in content production and digital platforms and virtual experiences, but we also believe a lot in meaningful engagement—physical engagement—and experiential,” Tarre said.

Man City organizes various clinics and tournaments, like the Nexen Manchester City Cup in San Diego, a youth tournament that, in 2024, will enter its eighth year. This month, the club started the US leg of its Treble Trophy Tour, which celebrates the team’s “treble winning season” by bringing its Premier League, FA Cup, UEFA Champions League, and UEFA Super Cup trophies around the world for fans to see up close.

One-quarter of Man City’s retail revenue comes from the US, making the states a “huge commercial opportunity,” Tarre said. The club has a team of about 10 people based in New York City who work on marketing and sponsorships for US-based brand partners, who Tarre said are particularly attracted to the club’s global audience.

The Lasso Way

By Tarre’s estimation, about 70% of Man City’s US fans are under the age of 35, so naturally, they’re using social media to engage with the club, which recorded almost 7 billion video views across its main accounts this year, up 107% from last year.

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Since young fans are known to appreciate authenticity from the athletes and teams they follow, Tarre said Man City invests a lot in behind-the-scenes content. The club’s Amazon Prime Video docuseries, released in 2018, leans into players’ lives off the field, and since it came out, Man City has uploaded its own documentary-style videos to YouTube, Tarre said.

While convincing players and coaches to give camera crews so much access was, at first, not “an easy win,” ultimately, the team believes in growing its audience “by being transparent, by being open, by being accessible to fans,” she said.

That’s part of the reason why Man City said yes to the opportunity to appear in Ted Lasso. “We were actually among the only one or two teams in the Premier League” to be featured at the time, Tarre said, but by the end of the first season of the show, “everybody wanted to be there.”

Man City has had an enduring presence in the show. Season 1 culminates with the fictional AFC Richmond competing against Man City, and there’s an episode in the second season named after the club. In Season 3, manager Pep Guardiola made a cameo, and he had “good chemistry” with lead Jason Sudeikis, Tarre said.

In addition to Ted Lasso, Man City has a presence in video games, with gamers able to play as the club in FIFA 23—just one more way Americans can be exposed to soccer, and potentially become real-life fans, Tarre said. Meanwhile, the US audience for the club is growing: February’s matchup between Man City and Tottenham Hotspur FC was the second-most-watched live Premier League game in US history, with an average of 1.5 million viewers on NBC and Peacock, according to the network.

“When we get into something, we generally believe that it is going to be good for the audience, and I think Ted Lasso is a good example, but there’s plenty others,” she said. “We’re very open-minded; we’re not the traditional football brand that says, ‘This is just about football.’ It’s also understanding where the next generation of fans is spending time and how they consume football, and they consume football very differently.”

Correction 12/4/2023: This piece has been updated with the correct name of Manchester City's home stadium. The piece has also been updated to reflect an additional trophy as part of the club's Trophy Tour.

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