An interesting development is occuring after the recent announcement by Vodafone that it was pulling out of its sponsorship deal with Manchester United.
Vodafone was paying £9m per year in a £36 million pound deal and is now terminating the contract two years before expiry. Of course both parties, Vodafone and the Glazers, put a positive slant on the announcement. A Vodafone representative said that the company was: “keen to continue their successful relationship and are exploring an ongoing sponsorship deal and build on its successful sponsorship of Manchester United in new, exciting areas“. While a spokesman for the Glazer family told Reuters it was “extremely comfortable” with Vodafone’s decision to “change the priority of its marketing strategy“. In short, the Vodafone logo will not be on the Manchester United shirt next year. So better get ordering the new kit!! You can do this at Kitbag, one of our own sponsors.
All of this was presented in the UK press as just further proof of Manchester United‘s steady decline, both on and off the pitch. Huge debt, declining profits and now this. The BBC presented it as a reaction to the Glazer takeover itself. In July this year, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, which had been opposed to the sale of the club to Malcolm Glazer, urged Vodafone to end its sponsorship deal with United as the club was a “tainted brand“.
But there is another story beginning to emerge that the Glazers actually encouraged Vodafone to pull out of its sponsorhip, seeing the company’s influence as too “clingy” and “restrictive“. And the Glazers are reputed to be absolutely purring at the chance to set the record straight about why they invested in the Man Utd brand. As one city source told the Observer:
“The withdrawal of Vodafone gives Bryan (Glazer) the chance to show his commercial and marketing mettle. Here is an opportunity for the Glazers to show that they can leverage the Man United brand at a time when the club’s fortunes on the pitch have taken a turn for the worse.”
The interesting thing is that the Glazers really do have a point here. During the sale of David Beckham to Real Madrid, there was a lot of financially misleading talk about shirt sales and the respective loss or gains. But the fact was that Vodafone were the ones gaining and losing in this respect and not Manchester United, the business. What is more- the Glazers perceive Vodafone to be too “regional” and not a recognized brand name, say, in the United States.
So who will it be? The rumour is that Bryan Glazer is holding extremely high-level talks with Google, who just happen to have opened an office in Manchester. What a match that would be!! Fantastic!! One of the things that initially had caught the Glazers‘ eye was the tie-up between Man Utd and the NY Yankees. It was this “international” element that they thought they could expand on- not just in the U.S, but also Asia, as could be seen with the recent high-profile transfer of Ji-Sung Park. Bryan Glazer‘s second choice, should the Google deal fall through, is said to be IBM.
The Glazers’ financial target will be clear. Apart from finding a sponsor who represents a truly international image, they will want to create the largest financial package in football history. These are the deals they will have to beat:
The biggest European shirt sponsorship at present is between energy giant Tamoil and Italian club Juventus, worth 110m euros (£75m) over five years from July 2005, working out at £15m a season.
From next summer Real Madrid will be collecting £14m a season from Siemens‘ partner Taiwanese mobile company BenQ Mobile.
Bayern Munich collects £11.4m a year from its deal with T-Mobile.
The biggest current shirt sponsorship deal in English football is the £50m, five-year contract Chelsea have with Samsung.
I for one hope we get Googled!!!