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Man United FC deal could turn out to be an expensive one for AIG

LONDON - AIG, the US-owned insurance giant, has accepted it has little presence in the UK domestic market despite having paid a record £56.5m for a four-year shirt sponsorship deal with Manchester United, reports Ardi Kolah.

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Chris Winans, vice-president of media relations at AIG, refused to comment on the sponsorship strategy except to say that the company was "building a marketing strategy around the tie-up which is being leveraged for product marketing purposes across the globe," adding that the Manchester United sponsorship deal was a "compelling opportunity".

Leveraging the value of the shirt sponsorship investment could be a tough challenge in the UK because AIG lacks any real presence in the consumer market, having chosen to focus on the B2B market instead. Its last foray in the B2C market was more than 10 years ago when it withdrew its non-life insurance company AIG Landmark after a few years' trading.

There is speculation that AIG may be interested in acquiring the Prudential in order to give it presence in the B2C market in the UK, but Winans refused to comment.

AIG, which has a UK-born CEO and was founded in Shanghai, China in 1919, has a strong presence in other markets, which provides a sound basis for the tie-up with Manchester United, Winans claims.

"We've a strong B2C business in China, Japan and emerging markets such as the Philippines, so the sponsorship deal with Manchester United is very complementary given the high profile football enjoys within these territories," he said.

AIG's business is split 40% life, 40% non-life and 20% financial services and asset management, which includes an aircraft leasing business in the US.

Questioned on how the company proposed to measure its return on investment, Winans said: "It's premature to answer this at this stage" but insisted that the company had developed brand communication and marketing plans to leverage the property across its global markets.

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