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Published in Sports Management 2014 issue 4
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Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes

The hotel is our chance to give back and create something special for the fans

Perhaps the most talented group of players to have simultaneously emerged from an English football academy is now spreading its wings in the field of business. Former Manchester United stars Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville – who, alongside David Beckham, are often referred to as ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ – are the main backers behind the £23m (US$38.7m, €28.3m) Hotel Football venture near the club’s Old Trafford stadium.

The quintet have December as the launch month for the 8,000sq m (86,111sq ft) building – designed by AEW Architects – which will incorporate a 133-bedroom hotel with space for supporters’ club members and spectators, a new Café Football and a club shop.

Giggs, who is now MUFC assistant manager after hanging up his boots last season, has said that the new hotel aims to offer something for United’s loyal fans and the local community, but will also try to appeal to a wider market through a range of offerings. Giggs, who along with Gary Neville has been the main driver of the project through the pair’s company GG Hospitality, said: “Gary and I have spent so much of our lives playing at Old Trafford and appreciate everyone who supported us there over the years.

“To make sure the hotel appeals to everyone, not just football fans, we are working with some of the most talented people in the industry to create something unique and inviting – with a focus on excellent customer service and nurturing young talent.”

Scholes describes the project as a chance to give something back to the fans who cheered him throughout his glittering 20-year career. “When Gary and Ryan mentioned the idea of Hotel Football and Old Trafford Supporters Club I was really keen to get involved,” Scholes said. “The hotel is our chance to create something special for the fans.”

While Gary Neville and Giggs have been involved in every aspect of the project since its inception – their company GG Hospitality is behind it – the others are set to take on a more ambassadorial role, with at least one of them always on hand to meet and greet supporters on matchdays.

“We want The Old Trafford Supporters Club to become a place United fans can think of as their own,” says Phil Neville. The 11-storey Hotel Football, located on Sir Matt Busby Way, will be managed by Stewart Davies, who has previously headed up Manchester venues the Mint Hotel and Hilton DoubleTree.

GG Hospitality has already launched a 120-seat themed restaurant – Café Football in Westfield Stratford, east London. Like Café Football, Hotel Football is expected to be the first in what will become a worldwide brand.

Details: www.hotelfootball.com

Gery Neville (left), managing director Stuart Procter (middle) and Ryan Giggs are driving the project
Gery Neville (left), managing director Stuart Procter (middle) and Ryan Giggs are driving the project
The five former players with the GG Hospitality team.
The five former players with the GG Hospitality team.
The hotel is adjacent to Old Trafford stadium
The hotel is adjacent to Old Trafford stadium

Chris Boyle, founder, Soloshot

I just took what I saw as an unsolved problem and decided to crack it once and for all

“I think I’ve always had an ability to recognise problems,” says Chris Boyle, founder of Soloshot, a new “automatic cameraman” system. Designed to allow athletes to record their performances without outside help, Soloshot is set to help make video analytics (as well as sport-related home videos) available and cost-effective to everyone. But how did Boyle, a biomedical engineer, come up with the concept? Being an action sport junkie helped.

“I was pretty obsessed with the ocean and travel – even as a kid growing up in Queens, New York,” he says. “So after playing a lot of field sports, I migrated to surfing and other action sports towards the end of school.”

Fitting then, that the idea for Soloshot came to him during a month-long surfing break. “Towards the end of my stay at a house I had rented, a north swell hit with offshore winds,” Boyle says. “I set a camera on the balcony, pointed it in the general direction of the break, hit record and went for a surf.

“When I got back and watched the footage I realised three things: not having an amateur operating the camera made for a better video; forgetting to worry about the camera made the surf more fun; but also that not having the camera zooming in and out made it hard to tell which one of the surfers I was.”

That’s where Boyle’s problem-solving skills kicked in. “A lot of groups put effort into developing automated camera stuff for the professional market but they were too expensive. I just wanted to be able to set up a camera on a beach and film some surfing without having to pay someone a bunch of money or impose on a friend,” he says and explains how Soloshot is based on a wearable tag that the camera “follow”.

“Our system is inexpensive and easy to use and the best thing is that the footage from Soloshot is better than everyone but the most professional guys. Now my girlfriend can relax on the beach or better yet come for a surf with me.”

Since its launch, Soloshot has been a success. While he doesn’t want to reveal exact sales figures, Boyle says that the cameras are currently available in 17 countries. Boyle is looking to expand the number by marketing the camera to an ever-increasing range of sports – as well as non-sports. “I really feel as though we’re just scratching the surface,” he says.

Details: www.soloshot.com

Chris Boyle, founder, Soloshot
Chris Boyle, founder, Soloshot
Starting life as a photographic aid for surfers, Soloshot is being introduced for a number of sports
Starting life as a photographic aid for surfers, Soloshot is being introduced for a number of sports

Stefan Olander, vice president of digital sport, Nike +

Once you establish a direct relationship with a consumer, you don’t need advertising

Described as one of the sport industry’s leading digital marketers, Stefan has held a number of key leadership positions with Nike over the past decade. Blending his passion for the digital world with traditional communications skills, he has led many of Nike’s most innovative and cutting edge initiatives – from launching EMEA’s new digital platform in 2000, to overseeing all communications for one of Nike’s most comprehensive global football initiatives; The Secret Tournament in 2002. He also led the creation of Run Americas, inspiring 115,000 people in five cities throughout South America (Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Santiago and Lima) to run a 10k race on the same day.

His most significant work, however, is the creation of Nike + and FuelBand – an innovative product which integrates fitness with digital media. He has been credited with generating new consumer connections and for bridging the digital and physical worlds, changing running forever. He now leads an innovation team dedicated to enhancing the consumer experience through the use of digital tools and his team is responsible for the entire Nike+ ecosystem, including the FuelBand as well as Nike+ Basketball, Nike+ Training, Nike+ Kinect Training and the popular Nike+ Running experience.

Due to the success of Nike+, Olander’s views on customer engagement through the digital world are listened to and in 2012 he authored a book which changed the digital marketing landscape – Velocity: The Seven New Laws for a World Gone Digital. In the book he criticised companies for taking an ‘old’ approach to social media, focusing on clicks or ‘likes’ and measuring success in numerical terms.

“Too many businesses are thinking ‘I need to sell inventory’, rather than ‘How can I add value to a smartphone, or a new device?’”, Olander says. “A whole industry is stuck on trying to force old metrics on to new channels.”

Olander says that Nike, as a brand, has moved away from investing in advertising and concentrates on the creation of digital services such as Nike+. It is part of a strategy which takes into account changes in the way people consume the digital media available to them.

“Advertising is an old model that’s being squeezed into the new framework of social media, where people don’t want to be interrupted. Once you have established a direct relationship with a consumer, you don’t need to advertise to them”.

Details: www.nike.com

Stefan Olander, vice president of digital sport, Nike +
Stefan Olander, vice president of digital sport, Nike +
Olander has been at the forefront of the Nike+ revolution, creating the FuelBand consumer products
Olander has been at the forefront of the Nike+ revolution, creating the FuelBand consumer products
The FuelBand makes it easy for users to set and monitor a daily goal
The FuelBand makes it easy for users to set and monitor a daily goal
Olander has been at the forefront of the Nike+ revolution, creating the FuelBand consumer products
Olander has been at the forefront of the Nike+ revolution, creating the FuelBand consumer products
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