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Manchester United teams up with first two Chinese sponsors

By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
January 16, 2013 -- Updated 0616 GMT (1416 HKT)
Manchester United fans look on as the team arrives for a team training session at Shanghai Stadium in Shanghai on July 24, 2012.
Manchester United fans look on as the team arrives for a team training session at Shanghai Stadium in Shanghai on July 24, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Man Utd announces major sponsorship deals with two popular Chinese companies
  • Wahaha beverage maker to be Man Utd's first official drinks partner in China
  • China Construction Bank to be club's first team-up with Chinese financial firm
  • Value of sponsorship deals not revealed

Hong Kong (CNN) -- In a first for Manchester United, the English professional football club today announced major sponsorship deals with not one, but two, popular Chinese companies -- each in a three-year deal.

While the value of those agreements have not been revealed, Chinese beverage giant Wahaha will become Manchester United's first official soft drinks partner in the country. China Construction Bank, the country's second largest bank by market value, will be the club's first deal with a Chinese financial institution.

Wahaha, based in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, says it has been China's biggest beverage maker over the past 11 years. Its bottled water, energy drinks and yogurt are ubiquitous from the urban markets of Beijing and Shanghai to rural stalls in the snowy mountains of the Tibetan plateau.

"Wahaha is one of the most iconic brands in China ... what better way to endorse this modern-day success story than to partner with the number one club in the world's biggest sport," said Richard Arnold, Manchester United's commercial director, in a news release.

Arnold added that the football club has had a long association with China dating back to 1975 with the club's first friendly match in the country.

Under the second deal, China Construction Bank gains exclusive rights to market the official Manchester United-branded credit card in China. CCB says it will start advertising the product to its nearly 102 million personal banking customers.

"In 80 major cities in China, CCB have almost 60% of all branches, making them the ideal partner to connect with our fans," said United's Arnold. "Financial services products give us tangible ways of providing real benefits to our fans that enable them to establish a closer relationship with their favorite team."

United's Chinese sponsorship deals are just the latest in a series of at least a dozen agreements with global brand names in 2012 as the club has tried to pay down debts from a 2005 takeover. Most notably, last year the club signed a $559 million sponsorship with Chevrolet for a seven-year shirt agreement.

In November, the club said its current debt stood at more than $640 million.

After Manchester United's two Chinese sponsorship deals were announced, its share price on the New York Stock Exchange rallied 5.23%, peaking in intraday trade to a record high.

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