Manchester United have confirmed that the club had sold both the training kit rights and the naming rights of their training ground to Aon, an American insurance company.
The deal, which cost about £120 million pounds and will be worth around £15m a season for Manchester United, will give Aon the right to display its logo on the training kit for all Manchester United’s friendly and competitive matches.
The Red's training ground, Carrington, shall be renamed the “Aon Training Complex” to the dismay of many United supporters.
Aon will also become Manchester United’s presenting partner on overseas tours, starting with United’s trip to the Far East in June. This means while the Manchester United players are on tour there, they will be doing promotional events for Aon as well as playing matches against the local sides.
Aon are hoping this will help develop their brand in an area where they are not very well known yet and by joining up with the most globally supported football club in the world, this should be quite easy.
These kinds of deals seem to be the new norm in modern day football with clubs selling the naming rights to their stadiums, sponsorship deals with clothing brands and even doing adverts for airlines.
In many people’s opinions this is a sign that football is quickly losing its heart and soul. Gone are the days that the local butcher or bakery would be the sponsor of the local football team. Football is now not only a global sport but a global advertising opportunity.
Manchester United seem to be taking the lead in terms of global advertisement, with sponsorship deals with DHL, MTN, Turkish Airlines, Chevrolet (from the 2014/15 season) and now with Aon.
This seems to be the future of football clubs, selling basically every right they can to maximise profit and branding opportunities. However, sometimes a club can go too far in terms of selling rights and end up losing supporters.
This happened in 2011 when Newcastle United changed the name of their beloved stadium St James' Park to the Sports Direct Arena in the hope that it would attract investors looking to buy the naming rights of the stadium, causing outrage with the Newcastle supporters.
The management at Newcastle said that selling the naming rights would generate between “£8-10m a season”.
However, changing the name of a stadium that has been around for over a hundred years just to generate some profit didn’t sit well with loyal Newcastle supporters and this led to many supporters not going to matches, which in turn meant that the stadium and the club lost revenue. The club has since renamed the stadium St James' Park.
The trend of stadium sponsorships seems to be taking over English football at the moment, with Arsenal, Wigan and even the smaller clubs such as Brighton utilising brands to help finance costs.
Manchester City, with the financial backing of their Sheik owner, completed a deal worth over £400m with Etihad Airlines to rename their stadium the Etihad Stadium in July of 2011. Where will it end though?
With so many clubs selling rights to nearly every aspect of themselves, many people are worried that the clubs are selling more than just their rights, they are selling their history.
Nearly every club in the top four divisions of English football are over 100 years old and with that comes a lot of heritage and pride. Fans of these clubs are worried that their teams will end up as glorified advertising boards with no face or substance.
This has led to many supporters starting or joining supporters groups in an act to fight against the selling of these rights.
For example, Chelsea have to deal with the 'Pitch Owners Group' as well as the 'Chelsea Supporters Group' before any stadium name changes or shirt sponsor changes can be finalised. This gives the supporters more power and piece of mind when it comes to the image rights of their beloved football club.
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