What sponsors Man United can attract with INEOS' minority stake

What sponsors Man United can attract with INEOS’ minority stake

January 28, 2024

“Transition” is a word that has been linked with Manchester United FC for about ten years now. The only consistency about the club has been the constant prevalence of transition, which is the state the club finds itself in even in 2024. 

Whether the INEOS management manages to steer the dysfunctional club away from further decline on the pitch remains to be seen. For now, though, new minority ownership is likely to see United attract sponsors different from the kind it currently has and has had in the past.

During the Ed Woodward regime, United’s valuation grew not on the basis of on-pitch success but because of the range of commercial deals the club bagged. In 2020, United earned a reported £279 million from sponsorships and merchandising despite the year being plagued by COVID-19, which was a major increase from the £130 million it earned in 2013, the year former CEO David Gill left the club. Going forward, we can once again expect a change in the club’s commercial operations.

INEOS comes in with a pre-existing pedigree in sports. The chemical production company is a co-owner of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team, while the INEOS Grenadiers are one of the most successful cycling teams in the world. The Sir Jim Ratcliffe-founded company also owns French club OGC Nice and Swiss side FC Lausanne-Sport, while also having an active vehicle sponsorship deal in place with United’s domestic rival Tottenham Hotspur FC.

The company’s website states that it operates 194 facilities across 29 countries, with its vision of products and projects largely centred around modernisation and innovation. While the website tries to suggest that INEOS truly cares about sustainability and protection of the environment, the allegations against it suggest otherwise. The promise of modernisation and innovation, however, is what INEOS is bringing to United as well, which also stretches to its keen interest in fashion and automobiles.

The INEOS Grenadier, a 4×4 vehicle, is currently one of the company’s most renowned products. Its co-ownership of an F1 team also demonstrates its keen interest in the automobile sector. The Grenadier lies at the very centre of INEOS’ sponsorship deal with Spurs; given the North London side played Nice in a friendly not too long ago, a connection isn’t difficult to draw. The off-road vehicle is advertised regularly at Spurs’ shiny new stadium, which undoubtedly would have played a part in it smashing pre-order records in 2022. 

Man United, as a whole, would be INEOS’ biggest move yet in the international market, and it won’t be a surprise if the company uses one of its most-sold assets for the biggest sporting purchase it has ever made. United once had Chevrolet as a primary shirt sponsor — the biggest shirt deal in the game’s history at one point. The deal ended in 2021, with TeamViewer taking up the role (and already confirmed to be leaving it soon), General Motors having reportedly been unhappy with United’s growth—or the lack of it. Chevrolet remains an Official Global Partner of the club, though not a “vehicle” partner. INEOS will want to pounce on this.

Automobile sponsorship will not be the only target considering INEOS’ reach. During COVID, as the demand for hand sanitisers skyrocketed, INEOS further branched out to create INEOS Hygienics, which deals in sanitisers, laundry products, wipes and hand wash with the promise of “science” and “performance”.

COVID saw United tie up with Ecolab, a Minnesota-based hygiene company, for maintenance of its dressing rooms and training facilities. It remains an Official Global Partner of the club. However, given the question marks that have been raised about the food hygiene situation at the club in recent weeks, INEOS has a chance to cash in and use INEOS Hygienics as a means to portray that this specific aspect of the club is also subject to positive change under the new management.

That’s not all. INEOS also owns Belstaff, a century-old British clothing company it took over in 2017. Belstaff specialises in informal wear — a segment United currently doesn’t have an official sponsor in, only having in place a technical kit partnership with Adidas and a formalwear sponsor in Paul Smith.

INEOS’ petrochemicals may not be directly useful for Man United, though it is clear from the above-mentioned examples that, even with a minority stake, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s multi-faceted conglomerate already has entities at its disposal via which it can make a contribution to the club’s sponsorship portfolio right away. 

For on-pitch matters, the new guys have already made a statement of intent by poaching Omar Berrada from Man City as the club’s next CEO. New sponsorship deals will certainly help them further drive home the point that things at United are about to change — this time for good.

Kaustubh Pandey

European football writer, Editor in Chief at Get Italian Football News, featured on BBC Sport, Manchester Evening News, Manchester United, FootballItalia and more

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