Manchester City attracts Hays and Gain Capital as sponsors

HONG KONG - Four teams from the English Premier League have visited Hong Kong in the past week, generating a flurry of sponsorship news.

Braunstein, Kompany and Glick pose with promotional jerseys
Braunstein, Kompany and Glick pose with promotional jerseys

In town with Manchester City and Sunderland for the Barclays Asia Trophy tournament (which also included local side South China), members of Tottenham Hotspur spent part of Thursday afternoon helping Under Armour announce its entry into the Hong Kong market.

Today, Manchester United sponsor Aon is hosting a seminar on risk and leadership, featuring Bryan Robson, former Manchester United and England player, and former Thailand national team manager. The team is in town for a friendly tonight versus Kitchee (assuming they find the soggy pitch at Hong Kong Stadium acceptable after cancelling Sunday’s open practice session).

Meanwhile, Manchester City (who won the Barclays Asia Trophy on Saturday), hosted not one, but two announcements of new official sponsorship deals while in town. On Thursday, global recruitment company Hays was announced as the team's official recruitment partner, and on Friday, Gain Capital Holdings was named its official online trading partner.

"Very simply, we want to be more recognised and more respected around the world," said Sholto Douglas-Home, group marketing director for Hays. "And that's not just a vanity kick. It's important that our brand be bigger and more recognised, because it allows us to reach further into the candidate pool and serve clients more effectively".

With this objective in mind, Hays selected Manchester City after a thorough analysis pitting traditional advertising, such as an airport campaign, against a sports sponsorship. The company considered tennis, Formula 1, sailing and golf, as well as football.


Douglas-Home, flanked by Man City's Ferran Soriano (CEO, left) and Glick (right).

Viewership figures, particularly in Asia, made the choice pretty simple, Douglas-Home indicated, citing statistics that in China, 33 per cent of adults follow football, and nearly 100 per cent of those follow the EPL specifically. In Hong Kong, the number following the game is above 50 per cent.

"We specifically wanted to be part of the Asia tour," Douglas-Home said. "We were very keen to announce it here because there is such a passion for football in Asia." The region is also of growing importance to the company, representing 33 per cent of revenue. In the region, Hays operates in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

In the three-year deal, Hays will enjoy pitch-side advertising in Manchester City's home stadium, as well as use of the team's crest and imagery for advertising. In addition, access to players will enable the company to, for example, offer a flight to an away game with two players as a sales-staff incentive, Douglas-Home said. 

The "official partner" designation is not merely words, he added. Hays will actually be working with the team on its recruitment needs, which are significant as the team is investing and expanding due to its recent success. For example, Manchester City is opening a New York office, which Hays will help staff.

Asked whether Hays considered other teams once it had settled on an EPL sponsorship, Douglas-Home cited clear synergies around team-building and leadership, adding that Man City "instantly got" that recruitment is the ultimate people business. The company felt the team really wanted a partner, rather than "just another name on the door", he said.

The same rationale for a mutually beneficial transaction was echoed by Gain Capital's regional director Shane Braunstein, who pointed out football and forex are both "fast-moving" in their respective fields.

"The fundamental elements of success are the same: strong preparation and superior execution," he said, adding that the company now sees the club as a sister brand, as well as testament to the company's commitment to "finding every channel we can to reach out to more potential investors".

This is "unique" in sports sponsorship, going beyond just plastering logos on jerseys and around pitches, he said. As part of the partnership, Forex.com, the retail division of Gain Capital, will create exclusive behind-the-scenes content featuring the sports franchise. This will include, for example, pre-match formations, providing "an insider’s view" of how the club is run via the players, business operations and backroom staff via a microsite and on social media. 

Forex.com provides retail traders access to a variety of global over-the-counter (OTC) financial markets, including foreign currencies, precious metals and commodities. As of June 2013, active retail accounts that executed at least one transaction during the month stand at 64,144.

It makes marketing sense for the Blues to leverage the already-strong digital presence of the purely online business to build the Manchester City brand among Forex.com's client base, according Tom Glick, the team's chief commercial and operating officer.

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany was also formally appointed as Gain's brand ambassador. He admitted he has only been watching online trading "from the sidelines", but expressed his excitement about starting his first online trading portfolio.

His investment style will probably follow what new Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini promised: a more attacking style of football than his predecessors, which Glick will deploy similarly in marketing the club in Asia.

"We want to be known for that, and we want to be using the magic of football to appeal to Asia's investors," remarked Glick.

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