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9 Jul, 2013 10:09

Change in the air: Aeroflot signs on as Man United’s first Russian sponsor

Change in the air: Aeroflot signs on as Man United’s first Russian sponsor

Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, will become Manchester United’s official airline carrier for the next five years, marking the club’s first sponsorship with a Russian company.

The Moscow-based airline will replace Turkish Airlines as the leading football club’s official air sponsor.

In a joint press conference at the football clubs Old Trafford Stadium on Monday, the club announced the strategic partnership with Russia’s oldest and most profitable airline and Sky Team Alliance member.

"We have 18 million fans in Russia but we have never had a partner there," United’s Managing Director, Richard Arnold, said.

The partnership, which will run through 2018, coincides with Russia’s rising profile in the football world as it prepares to host the 2018 World Cup. Russian football clubs are the second biggest spenders according to FIFA.

“It’s a significant step for our first global partnership to be with one of the most successful and well-loved football clubs in the world,” Aeroflot Chief Executive Vitaly Saveliev said.

No financial details were disclosed at the time of the announcement. In July 2012 Aeroflot signed a $9 million sponsorship deal with the Russian Premier League team CSKA, in which they gave the team use of an Airbus A320.

"We believe that such a great club as Manchester United will help us to promote our brand worldwide," Saveliev told Reuters

The airline is going to showcase one of its airplanes outside of the Old Trafford stadium, a representative of Aeroflot told Vedomosti. Under the sponsorship contract Aeroflot will also be able to use ManU logos as well as players in their advertising and marketing campaigns.

image from http://www.manutd.com
The move will help Aeroflot raise their global profile, and boost their brand. United claims to have 659 million followers worldwide, and is also the highest grossing football club in the Premier League.

At present, Aeroflot doesn’t fly to Manchester, but the town and stadium will not be painted with the airline’s brand and advertisements.

The team will use the Aeroflot fleet to travel to Champions League matches around Europe and worldwide.

The club will rent a Boeing 747 from Aeroflot, personally outfitted with beds and business class amenities on a pre-season tour to Thailand, Australia, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Russian fans, as well as billionaire patrons, have recently played a large role in European football. Roman Abramovich just celebrated his 10th year as the owner of Chelsea football, and Gazprom, the state-controlled oil giant, has financial stakes in many clubs in the Champions League.

Gazprom has been an official partner of the UEFA Champions League since 2012, and is a partner for the UEFA Super Cup 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Gazprom launched the “Football for Friendship” international social project last April, and held its first forum in London July 2, with youth football teams from Russia, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia and the UK.

Aeroflot is the official sponsor for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games as well as the Brooklyn Nets basketball team in the United States, which Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is part-owner.

Etihad Airways is the main sponsor of United's local rival Manchester City, while Emirates Airline services the Arsenal football club, and is visibly displayed on the teams’ uniform.

General Motors is United’s main shirt sponsor, a deal worth $559 million, the biggest in the sports’ history.