Wahaha splashes out on Man U sponsorship

Mainland soft drink maker signs three-year advertising deal with listed English team

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 4:19am

Manchester United, the record 19-time English soccer champion, signed a three-year sponsorship deal with Hangzhou Wahaha Group, owned by China's richest man, Zong Qinghou.

The deal, the first for the club with a soft drinks maker in China, will let it "engage" with its fan base in the Asian nation where it has 108 million followers, Manchester United said on its website yesterday.

The team had played 11 times in the nation since 1975, it said.

"Wahaha is one of the most iconic brands in China and one that has come to symbolise the dynamism and strength of the modern Chinese economy," said Richard Arnold, Manchester United's commercial director.

Zong, 67, owns more than 80 per cent of Wahaha and has a net worth of US$16.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

He founded the company, now China's third-biggest beverage maker, with two retired primary teachers and a US$22,048 loan in 1987.

"The partnership between China's largest beverage company and the world's top English football club is an inspiring and huge development for Wahaha," Zong said.

Manchester United rose 5.2 per cent to US$15.29 in New York trading yesterday for its biggest gain since its shares started trading on August 10. Wahaha is closely held.

Separately, the club announced yesterday a three-year sponsorship agreement giving China Construction Bank sole rights to issue Manchester United-branded credit cards in China.