GAC Group, the shipping and logistics company based in Dubai, has entered into a unique partnership deal with the UK championship football club Sheffield United that it says could set a precedent for sport sponsorship agreements. GAC Group said the deal "was not sponsorship as we know it". It was designed to generate business globally for the logistics company through Sheffield United's international football clubs based in China, Hungary and Australia.
"We give Sheffield United a sum of money that is in direct relation to the business that is generated [for GAC] in return through their relationship with their customers," said Bill Hill, the group vice president of GAC Logistics. "The more business that we generate, the more cash that they will generate. It's not just a pure sponsorship deal where we would pay for branding and effectively take a risk on whether we would get anything back."
Mr Hill said the economic climate meant companies had to adapt sponsorships, but GAC will still have its name on the South Stand at Sheffield's home ground of Bramall Lane. "We could not have this arrangement with any football or sporting club, because what makes it more interesting with Sheffield United is the other opportunities it can open up in the other countries where they are represented," Mr Hill said.
He said they had agreed on a minimum amount for the three-year deal, but he would not disclose the figure, adding Sheffield was also looking at a number of other clubs around the world, including the US. "This supports our number one objective of winning promotion back to the Premiership, while continuing to look at ways of expanding our global portfolio," said Mike Farnan, the executive director of Sheffield United.
The UAE has shown great interest in sponsorship deals within the football world, with Emirates Airline sponsoring the FIFA World Cup, Arsenal and AC Milan, among others. Etihad Airways has signed deals with Manchester City and Chelsea. "If you take sport in general, in particular football, it is a highly visible medium to get any message across, especially in terms of branding," Mr Hill said. "What Emirates and Etihad are doing is admirable. You don't see that from any other airlines, which is why they are building their brands so fast, because they are getting a lot of visibility globally 24/7."
GAC also has a long history of sports sponsorships, as the main sponsor of another UK football club, Crystal Palace, as well as having advertisements at Middlesbrough and Manchester City. It is involved in golf and motor racing sponsorship deals as well. GAC started operating in the 1950s and has more than 8,000 employees in more than 350 offices around the world. firstname.lastname@example.org