Manchester United Hit Jackpot As United States Tour Reaches Fever Pitch Both On And Off The Field

But the big money all stems from the United States, with Chicago-based insurance giant Aon paying £80 million over four years to have its logo on the United shirts and Nike eager to extend its £303 million kit deal with the club.

“When the opportunity to sponsor United became available to us in 2009, we realised it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to align with the number one brand in the world’s number one sport.” said David Prosperi, Aon’s head of Global Public Relations.

“The most interesting thing is that it has caused more people to ask about what we do. When we launched the sponsorship in June 2010, hits to our website increased over 150 per cent. But on match days, we have seen dramatic increases in hits to the site from specific countries that have come close to 500 per cent, so there has been significant uplift in brand recognition from clients and prospects as well as from the general public.”

United’s visit to Chicago is a clear nod to their major sponsors, but demand for the team now ensures that the club can pitch up practically anywhere in the States and be sure of a capacity crowd.

Last summer in Kansas City, an unremarkable, isolated mid-West city, traffic jams led to gridlock outside the 76,000-capacity Arrowhead Stadium prior to United’s defeat against the Kansas City Wizards.

In Seattle, the city’s Nike Town store (think Oxford Street, but bigger) was emblazoned with images of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ji-sung Park without an NBA or NFL star in sight.

Charlie Brooks, Nike global communications director, said: “The event we staged in Seattle Nike Town to launch the new away kit last week was hugely oversubscribed. The appetite for the game there is huge and we had a great reaction to the United merchandising and imagery in the Nike Town store there. There’s definitely more awareness and recognition of United now in the US and this tour will only increase that.

“United is the biggest club in the world, and Nike, as the leading football brand in the world, want to work with the best teams and players. United are huge for us in that sense, but we have also been able to help the club elevate their presence and commercial impact globally since the partnership began.”

KC Johnson, the reporter responsible for covering the NBA fortunes of the Chicago Bulls for the Chicago Tribune, has shadowed United on tour and he admits the interest in the club is now well-established and growing rapidly.

“It’s like the New York Yankees,” Johnson said. “United are increasingly popular in the States and Chicago, certainly, is crazy about having them play here this weekend.

“Not many soccer teams have an impact in the States, but United are the biggest, with Real Madrid and Barcelona some way behind. Other English clubs have been out here this summer, but none has the same recognition as United.”

Next summer, the United bandwagon is likely to head back to the Far East, but Ferguson admits that the States is now firmly on the map for United — and vice versa.

“The big tradition at the club has always been about going to the Far East,” Ferguson said. “But we’ve had fans outside our hotels here and the fanaticism is there to see. You cannot help but feel strongly that the United States is now an emerging soccer spot.”

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