Undertaker outfit on Leicester City pitch

Social Media: A New Transfer Battleground

Statement transfer announcements are nothing new. Back in 2009, Manchester City made headlines around the world when unveiling their huge Carlos Tevez ‘Welcome to Manchester’ billboard. Since then, transfer signing announcements have moved to social media with clubs seemingly competing to produce the most engaging content. In 2017, John Terry was announced using a WhatsApp group chat, and Antonio Rudiger gave a young fan permission to print his name on a Chelsea top, whilst Yeovil used popular dating app Tinder to announce the signing of Oscar Gobern. 

This year, transfer announcements have taken on a slightly different tone. The global crisis has moved the nature of many of the announcements away from videos that rely on significant fan or player involvement. With accounts instead linking with trends on social media, tying in with other sports and public figures or creating memorable content with limited access to the players. We decided to have a closer look at some of our favourites.

Tottenham announced the signing of Matt Doherty by showing him deleting his old tweets about his love of arch-rivals Arsenal. This simple video was retweeted more than 40,000 times and liked by over 200,000 people on Twitter with many fans, both Spurs and from its rivals, praising the club for the video. Sometimes confronting a potentially awkward issue head on, and making a joke of it, is better than trying to bury it.

Leicester City announced the signing of 23 year old winger Cengiz Ünder through the cryptic upload of a trench coat and black hat in the middle of the King Power Stadium pitch. To WWE fans, this was an obvious nod to legendary wrestler The Undertaker. Thirty minutes later a second post announcing Ünder’s signing complete with the hashtag #ÜnderTaken was shared. To date the original photo has almost 65K likes on Twitter. And was even quote tweeted by the Deadman himself. Since making the announcement, the social team at Leicester have also taken care to add umlauts to all the Us in the team’s bio.

English League One side Blackpool FC poked fun at Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti with the signing of former Toffees left back Luke Garbutt. Ancelotti went viral in June when he didn’t know that 27 year old Garbutt was an Everton player – let alone their longest serving player – in a press conference. Blackpool kept things simple, tweeting a photo of Ancelotti from the exchange shortly before announcing Garbutt’s signing. The announcement went viral on Twitter (with it receiving over 1k shares and 10k likes), and was also featured by several national newspapers and the BBC, bringing the club a huge amount of valuable exposure.

Ancelotti screenshot from Blackpool Twitter account

Newcastle’s announcement of Ryan Fraser from Bournemouth was understated but very effective. A series of tweets were posted with the first letter of each spelling out the new arrival’s name. This was a continuation of a classic trend on Twitter and again led to widespread acclaim for the inventiveness and creativity of the Newcastle social media team. Newcastle’s announcement, in a similar vein to Blackpool’s and Leicester’s, required no access to the player.

These announcements can be valuable to both club and player. The announcement of Everton’s signing of James Rodriguez reached a staggering 400 million people around the world with iconic local landmarks used to announce the move. Such moves also benefit the players’ social media accounts: Daley Blind’s social media following increased by 72% within 14 days of him signing for Manchester United in 2014, whilst Donny van de Beek attracted 20,000 new Twitter followers (despite not tweeting for more than two-and-a-half years) within an hour of his announcement. 

This value is a double edged sword with the increasing demand from fans for clubs’ social media accounts to make creative announcements making the process increasingly fraught. In August, an Arsenal supporter began a petition asking for one of the club’s social media admins to be sacked due to ‘trolling’ the fanbase and ‘late line-up announcements’. Whilst Sevilla were widely criticised in 2017 after they created a signing announcement of Jesus Navas where the player appeared to be kidnapped. 

The use of social media has grown in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic with fans and clubs increasingly using it to foster authentic relationships. As such, it’s safe to say that creative transfer announcements are here to stay.