Friday, June 5, 2009

United Insured in the Largest Sponsorship Deal

Its not surprising to anyone that AIG is no longer the shirt sponsor for Manchester United after the debacle year it's having. It might be ironic that the former powerhouse has been replaced with Chicago based insurer Aon. Insurance companies, especially in the US, have been criticized for sponsoring sports teams and events when the economy is down the tank, so we'll have to see if Aon gets any trouble from the deal. I don't care about the company sponsoring United. I'd rather see Aon than seeing new kits with Sahara ( a finance corp. from India ) or Saudi Telecom
( self explanatory ) on them, if for no other reason than than AON is close to AIG and I'm really fond of our current jerseys.

Of course neither Aon, United, nor the Premier League would report how much the deal was actually worth but there's a lot of rumor about how much money is actually going to be spent for the shirt support. It's being publicized as the most lucrative deal in professional football today. Papers across the pond are saying that it is £80 million for the four years ( $131.2 million ) which would make it £20 million in support per year ( $32.5 million ). Apparently this is about 40% up from the yearly rate AIG was paying the club...if I can use basic math skills that should be about £14.286 million per season.

Until a few days ago I'd never heard of Aon. According to it's Web site, Aon is the leading provider of risk management service, in- and re-surance brokerage, and human capital and management consulting. I'm not sure about all that but they must have some brains to get behind one of the global leaders in the biggest global sport and have their name emblazoned on the front of their jerseys.

Another reason this might be a genius idea for Aon comes from contests and deals United does with corporations or sponsors besides having their name on the jersey. Over this summer United is touring Asia ( and knock on wood that their players won't get any mysterious viruses like they did last summer in Africa ) and on their Web site it gives fans ( Britain residents only ) the chance to win tickets to the tour in Malaysia or Indonesia if they set up a "United Adult Savings Account" or "Manchester United Mortgage." I think...why not do something like that for American fans? They might not always love us but the club is owned by Glazer ( an American ) and sponsored by Nike and now Aon.

Aon is also rumored to want to bring United to Chicago for an exhibition match. I know I'd gladly road-trip to Illinois, pay $100 plus for a ticket, and wait for hours to meet a player.

I think Aon is brilliant for snatching up this branding opportunity. There are over 300 million United fans across the world. A lot of them are springing up in the States and every person who buys a new jersey to support their club becomes a walking insurance billboard. If they're willing to pay it and have the means to pay it....good for them.

Perhaps more importantly, good for the club. Articles from this week are saying that the debt of the Premier League is topping out at about £3 billion. £3 BILLION. United itself has a debt of £649 million from the Glazer takeover. Just imagine the interest gathering on that. Only Chelsea FC is further in debt. ( Of course the Big Four have the most- Chelsea and United, followed by Arsenal and Liverpool. ) They're building new stadiums ( like the Emirates Stadium ), paying millions of £ in transfer fees for players, and spending £ millions in keeping their current players from jumping ship.

Even though the club announced the four year deal yesterday
( the contract was signed before United lost to Barca... or so I've read ) the United jerseys won't actually have the Aon name on them until the 2010-2011 season. Which means we'll keep our AIG front for this upcoming year. Despite all of the bad press you have to remember that United didn't shrug off AIG's backing; it was AIG who decided not to renew their contract, which expires at the end of next season. So that explains why you'll see United kits with AIG on them despite the press behind this new deal.

Fun Fact: Apparently Barcelona actually pays the charity Unicef $2 million a year as part of a five-year deal for the right to wear the Unicef logo on its jerseys. ( NY Times )

Also, pardon the post name pun.

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