I recently had the opportunity to attend a local “friendly” match (i.e., an exhibition match) between Manchester United and Wrexham AFC at SDSU’s Snapdragon Stadium here in San Diego. This match was part of a broader Manchester United tour of the United States, in which they played in stadiums across the country.
Qualcomm invited me to this match to demonstrate the depth of its partnerships with both SDSU and Manchester United, and in a bigger sense the overall scope of the Snapdragon brand’s growth over the past few years since Qualcomm CMO Don McGuire took his current role. I spoke with McGuire at length about the Snapdragon brand, the company’s partnerships with teams like Manchester United and other Snapdragon brand awareness programs such as the Snapdragon Insiders program, which has more than 12 million members.
Qualcomm’s history with the Snapdragon brand and sports partnerships
Don McGuire joined Qualcomm in 2016 and became CMO in 2021. During his tenure, McGuire spent a considerable amount of time and resources to build and strengthen Qualcomm’s Snapdragon brand. Snapdragon originated within the company’s application processor business and has evolved over the years to be the company’s umbrella brand for most of its consumer-facing technologies, including smartphones, automotive, wearables, PCs, XR and much more. Qualcomm’s investment in the Snapdragon brand is also a way for OEMs to leverage the Snapdragon brand as a premium addition to their own products’ value proposition. We are seeing more and more OEMs call out Snapdragon in their own marketing. This includes Samsung, which is currently using “Snapdragon for Galaxy” branding for all its phones and tablets globally.
In the past, we’ve seen Qualcomm partner with other sports such as Formula One and Formula E, but previously only using the Qualcomm brand itself. That also happened at what used to be called Jack Murphy stadium in San Diego—the longtime home of the Padres baseball team and former San Diego Chargers—which carried the Qualcomm name for decades before it was demolished a few years ago to make way for Snapdragon Stadium.
Partnering with global football giant Man United
One of Qualcomm’s newest partnerships is the one it created with Manchester United of the English Premier League, which is coming up on a year old. McGuire explained that Qualcomm worked with media powerhouse Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to find a partner that would be the right fit. The goal is to create a two-way relationship in which Qualcomm expands brand awareness across Manchester United’s millions of fans at the same time the football club works with Qualcomm to digitally transform itself. As part of the five-year partnership, there are plans to improve the digital infrastructure at the club’s Old Trafford home ground.
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Manchester United puts its own fanbase at 1.1 billion people worldwide, so it makes sense that a brand like Snapdragon, which has a strong presence in places like China and India, would want to partner with such a storied team. While there is a lot of talk about the team’s ownership, which may soon be reconfigured or change hands entirely, it is quite clear that Qualcomm’s partnership with Manchester United is only growing. Any ownership group would be wise to extend the partnership in the future.
In fact, the club’s CEO of Alliances and Partnerships, Victoria Timpson, told me that, through Manchester United’s “Who/What is Snapdragon” program, Snapdragon’s brand awareness among fans has increased by 83% and its brand preference has grown by 53% in the first year alone. Timpson also said that Manchester United plans to employ Snapdragon-powered devices both at Old Trafford and globally. The club has also recently promoted #snapdragonkickups, a user-generated content campaign that drove 32 million impressions worldwide; winners of a contest attached to the campaign got to attend the U.S. tour.
One way that the partnership is expanding is with Snapdragon’s sponsorship of Man United’s summer series of matches in the U.S. the first of its kind in five years for Manchester United. To get the team ready for the coming season and to connect with more fans, United scheduled a series of friendlies across the country. After starting against Arsenal at MetLife Stadium in New York, they played Wrexham AFC at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, Real Madrid at NRG Stadium in Houston and finally Borussia Dortmund at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The opponents were well-chosen: Real Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world, Arsenal and Dortmund are giants of the English and German leagues, respectively, and Wrexham has become a media darling after being purchased by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney and featured on their Welcome to Wrexham documentary series. The fan turnout and media coverage generated by these friendlies help expand Manchester United’s reputation in the United States—and expose soccer fans to the Snapdragon brand at the same time.
Making the most of Snapdragon Insiders
At the Wrexham match, I also witnessed a considerable number of Snapdragon Insiders in attendance, as well as Qualcomm employees. Because it was on Qualcomm’s home turf, it’s not surprising to see employees in attendance, but the company is also clearly leveraging the Snapdragon Insiders program to really take advantage of the partnership with Manchester United. Qualcomm isn’t limiting the Snapdragon Insider program to the United States, either; events for the program are happening in China and India as well.
McGuire also told me that Snapdragon Insiders has its largest number of participants in Asia but that they are also seeing lots of growth in Latin America, its second largest market. Anecdotally, being in the U.S., I have also seen Qualcomm invite Snapdragon Insiders to industry events such as the Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii and other series like the Snapdragon Sound Sessions. From what I’ve heard, Qualcomm plans to co-market more Snapdragon Insider events with OEMs in the future.
Qualcomm has made a lot of progress with growing the Snapdragon brand, both within the tech industry and among consumers. The company has invested heavily in the brand, and it’s quite clear that the partnership with Manchester United and the stops on the U.S. tour—including the match against Hollywood-famous Wrexham AFC—have been wise moves. The match itself was unexpectedly rough for a friendly, but I think most local soccer fans will agree that San Diego is quickly becoming a world-class soccer city. Last year, the San Diego Wave of the National Women’s Soccer League began calling Snapdragon Stadium home, and it’s going to be joined there by an MLS team starting in 2025.