Of Aon, Manchester United and Global Branding

The global success of the English Premier League coupled with the Manchester United’s success in the last two decades has helped propel the English football club into pole position as the most recognisable brand in the world’s most popular sport.

This success hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Glazers took over Manchester United in a leveraged buy-out, setting the standard in loading the target club with long-term debt as they used sustained on-pitch success and better off-pitch marketing to increase profits and pay back those debts (or at least hold on till someone buys out the whole kit and caboodle).

The Glazers were instrumental in bringing in insurance giants AIG as shirt sponsors, a 16m / year that sounds like peanuts when compared the government handouts to AIG, but the impact went beyond mere millions. AIG greatly benefited from the global exposure, especially in Asia, and Manchester United gained in profile in the US thanks to their AIG connections.

So when AIG announced that they wouldn’t renew their deal with United, pundits expected the Glazers to be able to bring in sponsors will to pay more than AIG – thanks to recent on-pitch success and AIG’s example of a unrelated brand benefiting from the partnership in building their global brand. Despite the tabloid speculation, there was little to worry about for Manchester United and once they invited firms to place a bid, they were expected to score the most expensive shirt sponsor agreement.

Are Aon, at a four year, 80m deal, over-paying for the right to display their brand on Manchester United’s shirts from 2010-2011 onwards? Not at all. Given the high profile of the club and their competitiveness in both domestic and European football, it’s good business. For Aon, this is an excellent to chance to boost their brand internationally, especially in Asia. Although few people outside the financial sector had even heard of Aon before this deal was announced, you can expect Aon to be more of a familiar name in 5 years’ time.

And for Manchester United, the deal is further proof of both their international stature and the ability of their owners to continue making the best commercial deals for the club. Manchester United is the world’s most popular and most valuable football team and their level of global exposure gives them the leverage to conclude deals like the one with Aon, like the one with Saudi Telecom and before that the deal with AIG. Manchester United will hope that the partnership with Aon will also help strengthen their position in the US.

Studs Up owner and close friend Chris Toy recently interviewed the Vice President (Global Public Relations) at Aon, Mr David Prosperi. They talked about how the deal came about, what motivated Aon to make their offer, what impact the deal has on both parties, how involved (or not) Aon will be in United’s affairs and what the partnership means in branding terms to Aon.

It makes for interesting reading and while it’s not a ground-breaking exclusive, as a United fan and a football fan it’s nice to hear the story from the other side.

Read: David Prosperi (Aon) Interview

Also See: Manchester United’s 09-10 home shirt.