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Saturday July 23, 2005

Flying high with the Red Devils


HONG KONG: The next time you watch a live football match from Old Trafford, England, you might just see AirAsia's logo emblazoned on digital signboards at Manchester United’s famous ground. 

The Malaysian low-fare airline pulled off a marketing coup when they signed a sponsorship deal with the football giant here yesterday. 

The one-year deal costing AirAsia around RM10mil will see the airline using images of players in their advertising campaigns. AirAsia will be featured on stadium match day programmes and be linked to the club website (www.manutd.com).  

The airline will also sell Red Devil merchandise on flights and paint a new Airbus A320 in United colours. 

RED HOT: (From left) Man U players Ryan Giggs, Alan Smith and Park Ji-Sung holding up caps sporting AirAsia logos at the signing ceremony in Hong Kong Friday
The sponsorship deal was signed by AirAsia group CEO Datuk Tony Fernandes and Manchester United CEO David Gill, witnessed by the club’s commercial director Andy Anson, marketing director Peter Draper and Red Devil legend Sir Bobby Charlton. 

Fernandes told The Star that under the deal, AirAsia would get to use Old Trafford for a day. 

“We intend to use the stadium for a Malaysian-produced reality TV show that will be kicking off soon,” he said. 

He added that United had agreed to return to Malaysia at the end of the 2005-2006 season to take part in a regional competition, the AirAsia Cup.  

“This is a dream of mine, of United playing a few teams from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. We might even form an Asean all-star team to take them on,” Fernandes said. 

Earlier, Gill announced that AirAsia was the first Asian airline to enter into a deal with the club. 

He said the sponsorship made sense because many of the markets that AirAsia flew to had millions of United fans. 

Draper told The Star that the club was in negotiations with two other Asian companies in China and Taiwan for sponsorship rights.  

“The AirAsia deal will be a prelude to a number of other sponsorship contracts that Manchester United will be signing with Asian companies,” he said. 

Manchester United, with almost their entire first team including newcomers Edwin van der Sar and Park Ji-Sung, landed at Hong Kong airport yesterday. 

Thousands of screaming fans rushed to get a glimpse of the soccer stars, who will play the Hong Kong national side today as part of their Asia Tour. 

Ironically, national carrier Malaysia Airlines flew in the team and is the tour's official airline.  

Fernandes said it was pure coincidence. “This deal has been in the pipeline for the last six months, long before we knew of MAS’ involvement.”  

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