How Motherwell got a Twitter wink of approval from Manchester United

Motherwell made a parody of a Manchester United video to announce the permanent signing of Peter Hartley. Picture: Michael Gillen
Motherwell made a parody of a Manchester United video to announce the permanent signing of Peter Hartley. Picture: Michael Gillen
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All it took was a children’s stool, a tiny piano and a wink from Alexis Sanchez for Motherwell to earn the Manchester United seal of approval.

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The Scottish Premiership club announced the permanent signing of defender Peter Hartley from Blackpool with a brilliant parody of United’s unveiling of the Chilean following his move from Arsenal.

Rather than explain what happens, it is better just to watch it. To laugh. To enjoy.

From the club’s social media accounts it has been viewed more than two million times across the world to much fanfare, and appeared on Sky Sports News and BBC Breakfast.

And it shows little sign of stopping.

“Obviously the numbers are still going up and the global exposure is continuing to grow, so we will continue to measure it. But we can already clearly say that yes, we are overwhelmed by how well it has done,” said Grant Russell, the club’s communications manager.

“For Manchester United to then engage back with us was also fantastic and validated what we had set out to achieve.”

It is a reply in keeping with a club which is modest and humble, but also ambitious and innovative, on and off the field.

The video encapsulates just that: funny and engaging; self-deprecating but professional.

The idea grew from a “joke” among the club’s media team on Tuesday at their usual morning meeting.

It then developed, earning buy-in from manager Stephen Robinson, chief operating officer Alan Burrows and, most importantly, the star of the show ‘Pete’, an ingenious twist on ‘Alexis’.

And it was all achieved in the space of six hours, which included locating a piano at Argos after “an hour or so driving around different toy stores until striking gold”.

“We knew Peter Hartley was going to sign from early in the week and we had a rough, different idea which we also thought would do well (which we’ll now keep for another time),” Russell explained.

“Then it was suggested ‘why don’t we do the Alexis Sanchez video?’

“Obviously this started as a joke but as we kept talking we realised we could do an excellent parody of it.

“We are very fortunate at Motherwell FC that despite the small team and the financial limitations, we have an incredible skill set and a similar sense of humour.”

He added: “That’s the brilliance of our club. Everyone is a decent judge of things and then they are so encouraging.

“Everyone recognises the value of innovative media content. We aren’t content to be stuck in our ways and we aren’t content not to challenge the accepted norms. That’s an attitude that goes right through the place.”

Embodying that attitude at the club is Pete, who was completely unaware of the Sanchez video but was given the chance to smash a piano - and swear.

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“When we showed him and told him our ideas, he got on board immediately,” said Russell.

“He sums up everything about this current squad of players at Motherwell. He has such high standards and is passionate about doing well for the club. That’s an attitude that goes right through the playing squad.

“Let’s not lie - when we pulled out the toy piano and had Pete sitting on the toy stool, you start to worry it’s all going to be a bit too ridiculous for him.

“But he’s a great guy with a great sense of humour and he just embraced it all, and suggested other ideas as we went along which we incorporated too.

“You’ll just have to wait and see if Pete is staying on the shirt...”

Teams such as Manchester United, rivals Manchester City and fellow members of the European elite have both hordes of staff and oodles of cash to invest in their ‘brand’ and media engagement.

Motherwell, with average attendance of 5,856, and fan-owned by The Well Society, around 2,500 members, are continually required to think outside the box.

Producing such content is more than just retweets and likes. It is important to the club and offers a range of benefits.

“Exposure like this for a club like Motherwell FC is unprecedented,” said Russell. “It gets us in the minds of football fans around the world who might follow us and engage with us over the longer term.

“That has a lot of value if we can convert even some of them even into casual fans or possibly Well Society members.

“For our current fans, it gives them more good feeling about the club, I would hope. It has been a good season so far and this all adds to the good atmosphere.

“For our sponsors as well, this exposure is great for them. There is immense value in traditional sponsorships but when you combine it with a strong and creative media output, and a bit of luck getting something to go as big as this, it’s a massive advantage to be one of our sponsors.”

Scottish football fans should be familiar with the creative output from Motherwell, whether it is the artwork on club programmes or the club’s noisy and original ultras, the Motherwell Bois.

It is a theme which is key to the club’s development.

Russell concludes: “We are competing for the next generation of fans. We are acutely aware of that. The explosion of football to bring the global game into hyperlocal forums, particularly your phone, presents big challenges.

“We are competing with teams, players as brands, shortening attention spans, so many more things that we could list.

“What we do is find ways to make Motherwell appealing to current and prospective supporters. We also need to showcase ourselves to prospective players.

“I’m also a big believer in building more a “brand” around the players, telling their stories and showing more of their personalities. People love that sort of thing more than anything.”

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