Postcard from... Beijing

 

They do love the Premier League in China, and many an English side has made its way eastwards during the summer to grow market share for their merchandise and give Asian fans a glimpse of their team in action at the same time.

Combined with this, the arrival of big names like Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka to play for Super League sides has also boosted the profile of the sport in China.

So it was only a matter of time before the commercial opportunities started to turn into real financial deals. Last week, Zong Qinghou, who is either China's richest or second richest man depending on which rich list you go by, the owner of the Wahaha beverage company, signed a sponsorship deal with Manchester United.

And in a separate deal, the 19-times English champions announced a three-year sponsorship tie-up with China Construction Bank Corp., China's second biggest lender, which will give the bank sole rights to issue Manchester United-branded credit cards in the country.

The deal with Wahaha will see the club drink Qili during training and matches. Man Utd believes it has 108 million followers in China, and it has visited 11 times since 1975. Around 190 million of its 330 million fans are in Asia.

"The announcement of partnering with Manchester United represents a perfect opening paragraph in the next chapter of our history," Mr Zong said in a statement.

And in a separate Asian partnership, Man United has announced a three-year sponsorship with Japanese paint manufacturer Kansai, "who will be the club's first official paint partner".

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