Manchester United have claimed almost 10% of the world’s population support Alex Ferguson’s team.
United yesterday announced new research showing they have doubled their number of supporters worldwide over the last five years.
The survey conducted on behalf of the club said they have an estimated 659 million followers worldwide — nearly a 10th of the seven billion global population.
United also enjoy twice the support in Asia as their nearest rivals Barcelona, seen as the key market for the future.
Market research firm Kantar gathered responses from 54,000 people across 39 countries online and face to face, and asked interviewees which “team or teams they followed” — more than one club could be named.
Richard Arnold, the club’s commercial director, said the depth of support had helped United’s commercial income soar — it has risen by at least 10% every year since 2007.
“Our family of followers has doubled in five years and across the world this represents a very, very important asset and relationship for the club,” said Arnold.
He added that 88% of United’s support was in emerging markets, which are seen as the most important areas for potential growth, including 108 million fans in China, 55 million in Indonesia, 35 million in India and 26 million in Vietnam.
North and Central America is also a growing area for fans, with 24 million fans in Mexico and 34 million in the USA and Canada.
The research was carried out between June and August last year, after United had won the Premier League and reached the Champions League final, but Arnold rejected suggestions that the club’s relatively unsuccessful season this year would have led to any significant drop in global support.
“It is one of the huge myths that fans are fickle,” he said.
Arnold said the support had contributed to United’s commercial success — their training kit sponsored by DHL is now the fourth-highest selling kit worldwide, while 10,000 United-branded Honda motorcycles in Thailand sold out in two weeks.
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