Manchester United, the world’s richest football club, could be about to sign a deal which would see a gambling brand appear on its famous red shirts for the first time.
Unlike the rest of the Premier League, Manchester United has been very selective in the number of partners it has from the gambling industry, limiting itself to a single commercial deal at any one time and only then restricting visibility to digital channels and perimeter board advertising.
But it seems the introduction of the sleeve sponsorship concept in the Premier League has made the club re-evaluate the policy.
Manchester United has come close to having a gambling brand on its shirt before; in 2006 it had all but agreed on a £75m deal with online casino brand Mansion, but seemingly got cold feet on the association with gambling and the deal fell through. Mansion went on to sponsor Tottenham Hotspur for four years and have partnered with several other Premier League sides since.
This time the gambling operator in the running appears to be the Asian-facing operator ManBetX, which is already a Premier League shirt sponsor with Crystal Palace.
ManBetX has recently worked with Asia-based agency the Football Factory, which was an instrumental part of the deal that saw the brand announced as the International Presenting Partner Asia for Italy’s Lega Serie A at the start of the season.
The Football Factory has also got links with Manchester United. Just last year the firm brought Manchester United Legends to play in Australia for the benefit of both the Manchester United Foundation and the DT38 charity.
A spokesperson for Manchester United said that the club were in a number of discussions with potential partners and highlighted that there had been a lot of interest in the sleeve sponsorship opportunities across the Premier League.
A complication for any such deal to occur would be that Manchester United currently has an exclusive partnership deal with gambling operator Marathonbet which does not expire until the end of season. This would mean that any deal would not be activated until next the season started.
Jaap Kalma, former AC Milan Chief Commercial Officer and ambassador for Betting on Football Conference at Stamford Bridge on 20-22 March, commented: “The sleeve sponsorship appears to be a very interesting option for both gambling companies and football clubs since it became a possibility in the Premier League because it opens up a whole new range of strong visibility options for a relatively lower level of investment.
“The opportunities around sleeve sponsorship is one of the many things we are discussing at the SBC Sponsorship Forum, part of the Betting on Football Conference, as well as issues around social responsibility and public perception.”
Before the season started, Manchester United were strongly linked with a sleeve sponsorship deal with dating application Tinder, but the two organisations were unable to make a match.