People & Business: Axa's FA fever

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The Independent Online
AS WE head towards the FA Cup Final on 22 May, it was intriguing to hear from the event's backers Axa yesterday just how they wound up with the pounds 42m sponsorship of the tournament.

Gary Shaughnessy, marketing director of Axa Insurance in the UK, said he only heard that the FA sponsorship was up for grabs from a friend who worked in a sports promotion agency, in the middle of the World Cup in France last year.

Even then AXA had to fight off three bidders, including a bank and a drinks company, says Mr Shaughnessy. "We had to be opportunists to get hold of it," he says. The deal was clinched in just three days, he adds.

As soon as he had a draft plan for the sponsorship he had to fly up to the Lake District to get it approved by the board of Sun Life & Provincial. Then he had to zoom down to France to see the marketing director of Axa, who was only available during the France v Saudi Arabia match. The French executive concerned wasn't interested in talking during the match, understandably enough, leaving Mr Shaughnessy just 15 minutes at half time to make his pitch.

Mr Shaughnessy adds that under the deal, the TV stations must mention Axa at least three times every 25 minutes during coverage of the FA Cup. The company reckons that so far they have recouped the equivalent of pounds 15m in advertising from these mentions.