This is the first blog post  I’ve ever  written and yes, while I know I should have started doing this a long time ago, I would have procrastinated even further if it weren’t for an article on The Independent’s website last week that has, to be frank, caused me to see red (no pun intended!)   “Manchester United Defend Sponsorship Strategy” is just over 500 words during which the Club that has come 3rd in Deloitte’s Football Money League 2013 has had to justify why they’ve agreed partnerships with the many companies around the world that want to be associated with them.

The question being asked is “are Manchester United in danger of diluting their brand?”  No of course they’re not – particularly if they continue with the current strategy:  carefully selecting partners in specific geographic regions that operate in business sectors that do not compete with their core global partners.  Why would a paint manufacturer in Japan or a water company in China have any impact on the Club’s global image, the unwavering support of their fans, Chevrolet’s shirt sponsorship, or the value of a hospitality package at their next home match?  The answer is they won’t.  But they will have an impact on the Club’s performance because through this aggressive and ambitious programme of business development, United’s  commercial team are adding to Ferguson’s coffers, allowing him to pay the wages professional footballers now command,  ensuring they have the greatest chance of winning points, advancing in Cups, and giving the fans exactly what they want – success on the field.

There’s a lot wrong with professional football these days – but United’s approach to commercialising their assets with corporations that have marketing budgets they want to spend, is not one of them.

And let’s face it, if United’s fans do ever hear the names Kansai and Wahaha in association with their beloved team, they’re more likely to think they’re Ferguson’s latest signings than the commercial team’s (but don’t get me started on the subject of overseas players……I’ll save that rant for another day!)

What do you think – have the Red Devils gone too far?


  1. @SharpKen: @SharpKen @fionagreen66 Absolutely agree. Go fathom football fan’s logic about the evils of commercialisation in one breath & then their desperation for a competitive team and a win in the next!

  2. Good article, Fiona. The reality is that all Premier League clubs would love to have the commercial power that Manchester United have. I for one would love for St James’ Park not to have to rely upon being emblazoned with Sports Direct logos wherever there’s a spare inch in the stadium. I suppose we can look forward to them being replaced by next season. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on a Premier League club’s main sponsor being a payday loans company. A future blog perhaps?

    Look forward to your piece on overseas players too.

    • Thanks Marc, and thanks for the future blog idea — it’d be interesting to see how many NUFC fans actually approve of that deal too!

      • I think most fans aren’t that keen on the deal but will put up with it if it means investment in the first team squad and improving results on the pitch.

  3. Northern Rock got into a lot of trouble as a business but the only people who lost money were their shareholders (although some people might argue the tax paying public did too) but the payday loan businesses are set up specifically to provide expensive services to those people that can least afford it but most need it. And it’s all about reading the smallprint — which a lot of their customers rarely do. If our football clubs ran with more sensible business models they wouldn’t have to take the first sponsorship deal they’re offered – they’d have the utopian position of being able to choose the right brand for their business, but unfortunately most of them have to take what they’re offered, regardless of how unsavoury the business may be.

  4. Not sure there was any risk of diluting their brand image in the first place as, I’ve your rightly mentioned, they are not only carefully selecting their partners but also limiting their numbers per specific region. There used to be 4 to 6 big sponsors in the UK back in the early 2000’s, it looks like the bigger clubs manage to keep that figure but develop different markets worldwide… Hence a couple of mega-brands here, another couple there… nothing wrong with that 😉

    • You’re so right – FIFA have already started the “regional partners” route, I don’t think it’ll be long before F1 teams follow suit (or have they already?)

    • At least we can rely on Gary Linneker to keep the association going……how many years has that campaign been running for?????

  5. Agree with you with regard to MU diluting their brand. New markets and territories opens up new opportunities and the strategy of exploring and creating partnerships in those markets can increase a brands reach and therefore it’s value. Although brand association must be considered.

    However, MU must be careful as the pressure on the team to play in these markets in the off season as part of any leveraging campaign could start to affect the playing group and performance.

    Additionally the market will dictate the price!

    • It’s not just the pressure to play in those regions either…..what if there was ever pressure to bring players into your squad from those regions!!! I’d like to think footballing decisions are made without pressure from the commercial side of the business, but I think we may have seen evidence of this in the past (anyone remember the 1998 Ronaldo World Cup Final runours?)

  6. Below is an article that I read today regarding the business of Manchester United – Forget the fact that United are in debt, the Glazers clearly know what they are doing. United don’t just lead the way in the way in the business World of football but the business World of sport. I am not a United fan but ‘Glory Glory Man United’

  7. Thanks for that link – a really comprehensive summary of what United are doing — but isnt that scarey, that they generate so much revenues and are so commercially aggressive….yet are still in debt!!! Our football clubs’ business models are so flawed!

  8. Pingback: Was Ferguson the “I” in Manchester United’s Team? | Outside the Field of Play

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