Manchester Arena and AO in sponsorship talks

Bolton-based online appliances retailer AO is in talks to be Manchester Arena’s first sponsor since 2015.

Arena operator ASM Global has submitted a planning application on behalf of AO for new signage on the venue’s façades.

The application, validated on 8 January, proposes the installation of around five illuminated signs featuring AOs’s company logo on the outside of the arena.

Drawings accompanying the application show two signs on the junction of Great Ducie Street and Trinity Way, three on the façade of the NCP car park on the junction of Trinity Way and Cheetham Hill Road, and one on the elevation above platform six of Victoria train station.

The parties declined to specify the proposed value and length of the potential deal, but the planning application submitted last month requested consent for the signage to be installed for a five-year period between 13 December 2019 and 1 December 2024.

The venue, which was purchased by Secure Income REIT from Mansford Estates for £436m in 2018, has been without a sponsor since 2015 when Phones 4u’s five-year sponsorship deal was cut short when the company ceased trading.

Manchester Arena’s sponsorship history

1995 -1998 NYNEX Arena

1998-2011 Manchester Evening News

2011-2013 no sponsor

2013-2015 Phones 4U

2015-present no sponsor

A spokesperson for AO told Place North West: “We are exploring partnership opportunities with Manchester Arena but this is at an early stage and much will rely on the planning and legal processes to work out what these opportunities are.”

A spokesperson for Manchester Arena added: “Negotiations are at an early stage. AO is one of a number of potential partnerships being discussed.”

It is understood that sponsorship talks between AO and Manchester Arena have been ongoing for several years.

In 2015, Place North West reported that a deal with Korean electronics company LG was close to being announced but this never came about.

The 21,000-capacity arena attracts over 1m visitors every year and in February 2019 Manchester Arena said it welcomed its 30m visitor.

This July will mark the arena’s 25th anniversary and it is understood that operator ASM is working up plans for an extensive refurbishment that will include improvement works to the concourse and expansion of the auditorium.

The plans are being drawn up as a response to Manchester City Council’s plans for a controversial 20,000-seat venue in Eastlands. ASM executive vice chairman John Sharkey told Place North West last June that he believes having two large stadia in Manchester is not viable.

The council said last March: “International investors and operators see Manchester as one of the few cities in Europe with the ability to successfully host more than one large arena.”

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