Having just written a blog about Chelsea’s negative association demeaning sponsor Samsung the reverse is about to happen at Newcastle United, with derided pay day loan brand Wonga becoming their new shirt and stadium sponsor.
Showing that his knack for unpopularity knows no end Newcastle United and Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has decided to end Newcastle's sponsorship deal with Virgin Money early and replace it with the altogether more down market and hugely criticized brand Wonga.
Wonga are a pay day loan product that have been highly criticized for exploiting weak minded consumers in need of quick cash with
short term loans at incredibly high interest rates. Loan shark is a more apt description of their service.
So enraged were fans on 80 football websites a few months ago that Wonga were kicked off the sites after a massive fan protest in part due to the brand charging over 4,000% APR on their short term loans. Do they think they will get a better reception in Newcastle?
Sponsoring a team in the North East of England where there is high youth unemployment, high levels of poverty, high crime and drug rates is well targeted from Wonga’s point of view but irresponsible from Newcastle United’s point of view. They are a one city club and have a responsibility to their community.
Being owned by the chav’s favourite tracksuit retailer Sports Direct is bad enough but having the new shirts emblazoned with Wonga is not only taking the fans for a ride but showing complete contempt for the region. At least they have had sense to keep the St James Park name and not try and rename it Wonga as Ashley did by calling it the Sports Direct Arena, which no fan ever did!
The Newcastle City Council had already refused to rename any signpost to St James Park. They also refused to rename the St James Park metro station that services the stadium and is emblazonzed with Newcastle United posters, photos and black and white stripes.
Wonga currently sponsor football teams from other deprived areas of the UK with high unemployment, crime and drug use through Championship team Blackpool and Scottish team Hearts in Edinburgh (it's not all posh suburbs).
Newcastle have also missed a trick again with a UK only sponsor and not a global one. Or have they just realized that despite the popularity of the English Premier League (EPL) in Asia they will never be considered by global brands? They certainly won’t after this deal.
Can you see any blue chip brand wishing to be associated with Newcastle after they have both Wonga and down-market sports discount retailer Sports Direct as sponsors?
Wonga is only a UK brand and makes no sense to the hundreds of millions of EPL fans watching in Asia for example. Emirates and Etihad stadiums make sense as they were brand new stadiums and they both fly to Asia.
They may well as call it themselves Willy Wonga and the Chocolate Factory for all the commercial sense it makes outside of the UK. Inside the UK there will is already a negative PR battle to be fought by Newcastle and Wonga if they want this relationship to actually work as the immediate views of the fans is incredulous negativity.