The retirement of Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager was lamented by many as the ‘end of an era’ and how true that has proved to be as media and sponsors slowly adjust to United’s loss of dominance.
An article by Jack Gaughan in Monday’s edition of the Mail Online argued that Manchester United are unlikely to qualify for the Champions League this season and mentioned in passing that a similar failure next year would trigger a clause in Adidas’ contract incurring a 30% reduction in the 10-year 750 million pound shirt deal with Adidas.
Gaughan argued that Manchester United can absorb a failure to qualify for the Champions League this season, although the club’s ability to attract the best players in world football will be severely impacted.
However, it was the potential loss of 225 million pound in sponsorship which attracted many commentators’ interest, compounding the unexpected problems Adidas and Chevrolet are experiencing in their association with the United brand.
The United era began with the start of the Premier League and in particular the acquisition of the magnificent Eric Cantona in late 1992 which helped propel the club to win the first Premier League title (United’s first title since 1974-75). United then went on to dominate the Premier League – winning 12 titles up until 2012-13 and never finishing lower than 3rd.
The season after Ferguson left, United finished 7th, last season they finished 4th and they now sit in 6th place, with a chance estimated at less than 10% of finishing in fourth place, despite exceptionally poor seasons by traditional rivals Chelsea and Liverpool.
In recent days, Adidas’ marketing activities around their United have attracted media attention which cannot have been expected when their deal with United was penned – from ‘social media rejection’ of the ‘Wall of White’ promotion for the away game against Liverpool to surprise over ‘implicit criticism’ of manager van Gaal with the ‘Duty to Entertain’ merchandise being sold in the United club shop.
As Gaughan points out, Ed Woodward has put United on a strong commercial footing, with few deals dependent on performance on the field. But the question remains – how long will Manchester United be able to live on past glories?