Chinese consumer electronics company Haier has issued a statement refuting media reports about a potential £70m-per-season ($122.8m/€81.7m) shirt sponsorship deal with English Premier League club Manchester United.
UK newspaper The Sun reported Haier was nearing a deal to replace American car manufacturer Chevrolet as the club’s shirt sponsor. But the Qingdao-based company released a statement on Tuesday saying: “To clarify, Haier Group have not contacted Manchester United, and contrary to reports by the UK media, we have no agreement with them on any sponsorship deals.
“Haier is a Chinese company with a global footprint. We support Chinese youth sport development, having already made contributions to 305 primary schools to that end, and sponsored several other key sporting events in China, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Qingdao Marathon, and the World Aquatic Championships. We will continue to focus on our corporate social responsibility projects.”
Chevrolet has a seven-year deal with Manchester United, worth £450m in total, which is due to expire in 2021. Parent company General Motors is thought to believe it overpaid for the deal. Joel Ewanick, the global marketing chief at General Motors, left the organisation soon after negotiating the agreement.
Manchester United’s disappointing on-pitch performance in recent seasons may weaken its position as it seeks to replace Chevrolet. The club has failed to qualify for the Uefa Champions League in three of the last six seasons. But some sports marketing experts say its brand value will hold up. Speaking to SportBusiness last month, Misha Sher, worldwide vice-president of sports marketing company MediaCom Sport & Entertainment, said: “What they have done well is to build a brand that is in many ways, although not entirely, immune to on-field performances, which helps to explain that they posted record commercial revenues last year.
“Companies will still look at Manchester United and recognise the enormous value in their appeal with hundreds of millions of fans globally. They are now reaping the benefits of being one of the first clubs who leveraged this model; while others have followed suit, they have a significant head start.”