Commercial boost for Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed Vietnam will now be added to the list of potential Manchester United Far East tour destinations.
On another good day for United's commercial department, when it was revealed they had secured a "ground-breaking" £40million sponsorship deal with DHL for their training kit, they were also able to unveil a more modest partnership with leading mobile telecommunications provider Beeline to cover Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
And that raises the potential for Vietnam to be included on any subsequent tours of the region, which could resume next summer after successive trips to the United States.
"We have been to most parts of the Far East over the years," reflected Ferguson.
"People have said we must go to Vietnam. I am sure there will be an opportunity for us."
Whilst United's 'territory specific' approach to commercial deals has been established for some time, leading to them becoming the first club to break through the £100 million barrier in that sector alone when their results are announced later this year, it is the DHL deal which shows how valuable the club has become as a sponsorship vehicle.
The logistics company are paying roughly half the sum Aon invested to put their names on United's shirts even though European games - the only regular occasion on which the wider media are admitted to Carrington for training - are not included.
Indeed, at £10million-a-year, it is exceeded by only Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, plus Manchester City's far more complicated tie-up with Etihad Airlines, for their matchday kit.
Main sponsors Aon are believed to have been made fully aware of negotiations to prevent any disquiet and United's players will wear the new training kit in their warm-up ahead of this evening's Premier League encounter with Tottenham at Old Trafford.
"This deal breaks new ground in the English game," said United chief executive David Gill.
Commercial director Richard Arnold went further.
"The world's number one game is football," he said.
"Manchester United is the number one club and we are offering the number one marketing platform to fantastic partners."
And, whilst DHL, Aon and shirt manufacturers Nike are now United's most visible partners, Arnold confirmed that given the ongoing turbulence in financial markets, the Far East, with its estimated 190million United supporters, is going to become even more important.
"Many economies in that part of the world have been largely undented from the impact of the credit crunch," he said.
"Asia has gone from strength to strength in both capital and consumption-based growth.
"Given that situation and the fact such a huge proportion of our fans are based in Asia, it will continue to be a huge part of our business going forward."
It is claimed by United that 16 million of Vietnam's 89 million population are supporters.
Clearly, the vast majority will never get anywhere near Old Trafford, hence the eagerness with which fans lap up the opportunity to have match information and post-game interviews delivered to their mobiles - which, according to Beeline executives, are viewed as a status symbol in themselves.
For Ferguson, none of this comes as a shock.
He has seen at first hand the frenzy United are capable of creating, which explains why the Glazer family appear intent on floating part of the club in Singapore later this year.
"It is the impact of football and the advent of satellite television," he said.
"It has enabled matches to be shown across the world.
"We were told by the Premier League last week that its product is sold in 212 countries. I didn't even know there were that many.
"In Britain support comes through tradition, from fathers and grandfathers. In the Far East it is a new thing.
"The Premier League is attractive and people want to support a team."
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