SUNDERLAND today announced the biggest shirt sponsorship deal in the club’s history.
London-based oil company Tullow Oil are promoting the Invest In Africa initiative on the club’s strips for at least the next two seasons.
And though both the oil company and the club did not want to be drawn over the exact figures of the deal, it marks a major investment in SAFC and is comfortably the biggest shirt sponsorship the club has been involved in.
The money invested in the club is not expected to go into Martin O’Neill’s transfer kitty but it does mark the transition of Sunderland towards matching the size of sponsorship deals that established Premier League clubs have been doing for years.
The club announced an initial partnership with Invest in Africa in January – kicking off the not-for-profit initiative which aims to promote Africa as a great place to invest
The announcement of the sponsorship deal was launched at the Stadium of Light today by Sunderland chairman and owner Ellis Short, vice-chairman David Miliband MP and Tullow Oil CEO and founder Aidan Heavey.
They noted that the sponsorship marks a first in English football – promoting a cause rather than a commercial product to the Premier League’s worldwide audience of 4.7billion people.
Short said: “We are very proud to have augmented our relationship with Invest in Africa through this wonderful agreement.
“It is a partnership which sets a new benchmark for the club commercially but what stands out is while doing so, it truly gives something back to both our own region and to a continent which has become a firm part of our club’s success story over recent seasons.
“Extending our relationship will enable us to put the club’s knowledge and experience – allied with its immense global reach as part of the Premier League – fully into practice. It fits perfectly with our own aims as we continue showcasing Sunderland AFC to a global audience which simply loves football.”
Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne added: “The club’s Foundation of Light has shown the benefits of encouraging new business partnerships and investment in the North East.
“With the Invest in Africa initiative, the club will continue to deliver the same positive impact to the local business community as well as communities across Africa.”
Mr Heavey said: “At Tullow Oil, we’ve known for years that Africa is a thriving and great place to do business. But potential foreign investors are still missing out because of outdated perceptions of what it’s like to work in Africa.
“Invest in Africa wants to bridge this gap by challenging misconceptions, showing that Africa is open for business and helping more investors into Africa in partnership with local businesses.
“Ultimately this will make Africa a more stable and attractive place to work, which is in everyone’s interests.
“That’s why we’re delighted to be partnering with Sunderland AFC who share Invest in Africa’s ambitions and desire to reach a global audience.”
The move further underlines the Black Cats’ connections with a continent which has in recent years supplied five first-team players to the club – Ghanaian trio Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah and Sulley Muntari, Egyptian international Ahmed Elmohamady and last season’s Player of the Year, Benin’s Stéphane Sessègnon.
Their presence at the Stadium of Light has resulted in Sunderland becoming one of the most recognised Barclays Premier League clubs across Africa in recent seasons.
The club’s growing stature led to the BBC World Service’s inaugural visit to a Barclays Premier League fixture at the Stadium of Light on New Year’s Day 2012, with Sunderland’s dramatic victory over champions Manchester City broadcast to more than 25 million Africans in Swahili.