United's Kit Sponsors
Although now an integral part of a club's revenue, the sponsorship of the team kit is a relative recent development, which initially met with resistant from broadcasters.
Derek Dougan, who after a successful playing career with Wolves and Northern Ireland had become the Chief Executive of Southern League Kettering Town, is credited with negotiating the first shirt sponsorship contract, a four figure deal with a local company, Kettering Tyres. The company name appeared on Kettering's shirts for the League match against Bath City on January 24th 1976 but the club were ordered to remove it by the F.A. just four days later.
Instead 'Kettering T', which Dougan argued stood for Town, appeared on the club shirts until April 1976 when the F.A.'s patience finally ran out and they threatened the club with a £1,000 fine if the words were not removed. Together with Derby County and Bolton Wanderers, Kettering successfully proposed a change in the F.A. regulations to allow shirt advertising from 1977/78, although they were unable to find a sponsor for the new season.
In the 1978 close season Derby County were the first League club to negotiate a shirt sponsorship deal, reaching an agreement with Swedish manufacturers Saab, although the sponsored shirts only appeared in the pre-season photo shoot as pressure from the television companies had persuaded the FA and Football League to continue to bar shirt sponsorship.
A year later Liverpool announced a three year shirt sponsorship contract with Hitachi - and the flood gates opened. Clubs were compelled to wear plain shirts for televised games until 1983, when the TV companies finally gave way and allowed sponsors names on shirts to be broadcast. Football League regulations restricted the size of logos to a maximum of 81 square centimetres (32 square inches) but for televised games they had to be half this size. Both the FA and UEFA introduced regulations governing shirt sponsorship in their own competitions.
There have been frequent changes to the rules regarding kit sponsors by the governing bodies in the subsequent years, but they have been unable to agree upon a common set of regulations, hence the smaller sponsors' logos for European competition in comparison to those allowed by the Premier League.
1982 - 2000 Sharp Electronics (UK)
United announced the club's first shirt sponsorship deal on April 27th 1982. The deal, with the Japanese consumer electronics giant Sharp, was initially for a two year period and commenced at the start of the 1982/83 season. The commercial partnership with Sharp, who had their UK head office and distribution centre in the Newton Heath district of Manchester, lasted eighteen seasons. The initial two year deal was worth £500,000. In March 1984 Sharp agreed to pay £700,000 for a further two seasons as the club's sponsor.
2000 - 2006 Vodafone
On February 11th 2000, the club announced a £30 million four year sponsorship package with the world's largest telecoms company. The agreement, which initially ran from the start of the 2000/01 season, was extended for a further four years in December 2003 at a cost of £36 million. However on November 23rd 2005, in only the second season of the extension, a joint statement from United and Vodafone announced the deal would be terminated with effect from the end of that season. Vodafone had recently signed an agreement with UEFA, due to start in summer 2006, making the company an official partner of the UEFA Champions League and also the official mobile network of the competition. It is believed Vodafone had an opt out clause in their contract with United.
United announced a record breaking $100 million (£72m) sponsorship deal with American insurance corporation, AIG on April 26th, 2006. The deal was for four years from the start of 2006/07, and eclipsed the previous record of £50 million over five years paid by Samsung to Chelsea. American Insurance Group (AIG), the largest insurance Company in the world, were quoted as the 6th largest company in the world in the 2007 Forbes Global 2000 list.
In September 2008 AIG were one of the victims of the global financial crisis, and were saved from bankruptcy only by an injection of $85 billion (£47b) by the US Federal Reserve. Eventually the bailout totalled $152 billion (£100m). The continuing global recession prompted AIG to announce on January 21st 2009 that the contract with United would not be renewed after the initial deal expired in May 2010. United were reported to be already negotiating with potential sponsors, with Indian financial services company, Sahara, amongst the club's targets.
2010 - 2014 Aon
United announced a four year sponsorship deal with US financial giant Aon on June 3rd 2009; the deal started in June 2010. Although the club did not release details of the sponsorship, a figure of £88m over the four years was widely reported in the UK press.
2014-2021 General Motors (Chevrolet brand)
On July 30th 2011 (with over three years remaining on their deal with Aon) United announced a sponsorship deal with US car manufacturer General Motors. Although the exact value of the deal was not confirmed at the launch, the Reuters news agency reported it was worth $600m over seven years, and later reports in the British press confirmed United would receive around £370 million (£53 million per season) which easily beat the world record £125million paid by the Qatar Foundation to sponsor FC Barcelona.
The sponsorship deal came six weeks after GM became United's official automotive sponsor in a five year deal signed in May 2012, and as a result of the agreement United bought out the remaining two years of the sponsorship deal with DHL for their training kits.
The United shirts carried GM's Chevrolet brand from the beginning of the 2014/15 season.