United deliver DHL shirt deal, then call up Vietnam audience

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" £40m 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."

While 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 £100m 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 is 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 the club's Carrington centre for training – are not included.

Indeed, at £10m a year, it is exceeded only by deals struck by Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, plus Manchester City's more complicated tie-up with Etihad Airlines, for their matchday kit.

"This deal breaks new ground in the English game," said United's chief executive, David Gill. Their commercial director, Richard Arnold, went further. "The world's No 1 game is football," he said. "Manchester United is the No 1 club and we are offering the No 1 marketing platform to fantastic partners."

While DHL, Aon and shirt manufacturers Nike are United's most visible partners, Arnold confirmed that, given the ongoing turbulence in financial markets, the Far East, with its estimated 190 million 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. "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."

It is claimed by United that 16 million of Vietnam's 89 million-strong population are supporters, eager for 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.

Ferguson has seen at first hand the frenzy United can create, which explains why the Glazer family appears 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. In Britain support comes through tradition. In the Far East it is a new thing. The Premier League is attractive and people want to support a team." PA

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