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Why Aon's £80M Deal With Manchester United Is Undervalued and What It Means for U.S. Sports Marketing

Non-Americans know that football sponsorships -- even Manchester United's colossal £80 million/$125 million deal with Aon -- are hugely undervalued. They deliver multiples of the exposure a brand would get through regular advertising yet are sold at a considerable discount.

If you want to know just how undervalued they are -- and if you want to know what American sports jerseys will look like in coming years -- there are two must-read pieces in the trade press this week.

The first is a column in Sports Business Journal from Darren Marshall, an svp at sports marketing agency rEvolution, who has consulted on Man Utd sponsor deals. The second is a Q&A in B2B with Aon chief global marketing officer Phil Clement, on why he spent that money with the team.

First, Marshall puts the Man Utd numbers in perspective:

More than 300 million people worldwide claim to be fans of Manchester United, the equivalent of nearly every man, woman and child in America.
Nike sells almost 7 million replica Man U shirts a year. Unlike all major professional sports in the United States, soccer shirts have the sponsor's logo prominently displayed on them. That's 7 million walking billboards from Seoul to Sydney and San Francisco for Aon.
The global TV exposure generated by Man U and the other Big Four clubs averaged close to $90 million a year each, almost triple the amount Aon has paid, and that doesn't even include the value of all those replica shirts.
Second, Clement adds the long view:
BtoB: The branding piece, being on the players' shirts and being seen around the world, is still of critical value to the deal, correct?
Clement: One thing that came to mind, from the presence of our brand on the Manchester United shirt, is this: Think of how many young people in China and elsewhere are going to be exposed to that jersey. That is something that is going to pay off for 50 years. It's going to be locked into their minds and will be paying dividends whether the sponsorship is still going or not.
This, U.S. sports fans, is why you'll be seeing more of this in the future.