KUALA LUMPUR: Low-cost carrier AirAsia will renew a sponsorship deal with Manchester United worth US$5.6mil in a move officials are hopeful will further woo foreign tourists to Asia.
“Hopefully, we can ink the deal in a week. The number of tourists flying on AirAsia after we signed the deal with Manchester United last year is very encouraging,” AirAsia chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes was quoted by AFP as saying.
Fernandes declined to reveal the cost of the one-year deal, but said it was within its annual RM60mil budget allocated for advertisements and promotions.
Industry sources familiar with the deal said the contract could cost AirAsia some £2.5mil to £3mil.
AirAsia group deputy chief executive Kamarudin Meranum said there was an influx of European tourists to Asia in the past year, most of whom were British.
“A lot of them used to go to Spain, but are now coming to Asia after seeing AirAsia advertisements at Old Trafford,” he said.
The previous one-year sponsorship deal was for the English League Premier season from August 2005 to May 2006. The new deal will be from August 2006 to May 2007.
Fernandes said the profit-making AirAsia also hoped to leverage on Manchester United's massive fan base in Asia.
“As the official low-fare airline for Manchester United, AirAsia hopes to create opportunities and exciting avenues to reach out and connect with the team's loyal fan base in Asia,” he said.
Since last December, AirAsia has taken delivery of six of the 100 A320 aircraft it has ordered. It plans to have 15 of the craft in service by end-2006, and slowly phase out its Boeing 737-400s.
AirAsia in February said its profits rose to RM53.4mil in the second quarter to December from RM44.4mil a year earlier, due to higher loads and fares during the festive season. – AFX-Asia