Malaysian Group banks on Premier League referees

Commercial sports sponsorship is generally based on the principle that the sponsor gains something from being associated with the entity being sponsored.

For example Rafa Nadal and Manchester United are both winners and exciting performers, admired by sports fans all over the world, and so they each have a queue of brands bidding to adorn their kit and gain a halo effect.

So what are we to make of Malaysian travel and leisure company, the Tune Group, which is sponsoring Premier League referees from next season? Is there a more loathed group of people appearing on TV regularly every week? Is this really what the Tune brand wants to tap into?

In fact Tune is not coming into this cold. It is taking over the sponsorship from its subsidiary, Air Asia, so that it can promote its budget hotel brand Tune Hotels, which will open its first European branch in London this year.

The deal, which will see the Tune Group logo appear on the sleeves and training kit of all match referees and fourth officials, will also apply to the Championship, Football League and FA and Carling Cups.

The Tune Group is clearly a corporation of substance and achievement, owning the Formula One team Lotus Racing, the ASEAN basketball league and the long-haul airline Air Asia X, and clearly it feels the Air Asia sponsorship worked.

Yet maybe the brand just got submerged by all the other much more visible sponsors and advertisements at the grounds and on the TV broadcasts. Whatever the reasoning this seems like a brave move.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.