The Atlantic provides an eye-opening account of how Manchester United—arguably the sporting world’s most powerful “brand,” if only Europe’s second-best football team—wooed an obscure Chicago insurance company to replace bankrupt AIG as the club’s primary sponsor. James Warren’s piece contains the usual recitation of facts to demonstrate just how supercalifragilistic Manchester United really is, and a few other relatively predictable findings. (Surprise! It turns out that among small groups of corporate overlords, a disproportionate number of people tend to support none other than Manchester United. What—you expected a bunch of Wigan Athletic fans?)
What is rather startling is the bottom-line pay-off for both parties. After a painstaking global search, Manchester United reaps a reported $130 million. In other words, the cash value of that famous red shirt is less than the transfer-market price of a single United player, the dearly departed Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether this means that United sold its shirt-rights on the cheap, or that Real Madrid spends its money with the circumspection of a meth-cranked merchant marine in Bangkok…well, actually, we kind of know the answer to that, yes?
Meanwhile, Aon reckons its advertising pay-off is equal to about $300 million, given the complex global marketing problems now magically erased by the company’s connection with United. The piece also cites some compelling qualitative evidence—basically, AIG’s brand value increased a ton during its United tie-up, only to implode due to the firm’s own malfeasance—that this kind of zany outlay may actually be worth it.
If you’re into that sort of thing, of course. In my opinion, real football clubs are sponsored by beer companies.