Vodafone is to launch Manchester United-branded phones at the start of next season as part of its &£30m, four-year sponsorship deal with the club.
The phones will offer Man Utd fans special services – such as club news, goal updates and player information – through the Internet.
Vodafone commercial and marketing director Paul Donovan says: “We will effectively provide a wireless portal to manchesterunited.com, which will enable all fans to go to the Website and keep in closer contact with the club.”
Both brands have a global presence. Man Utd matches are shown in 128 countries, while Vodafone services are accessible in 104.
By the end of the year, new technology will speed up data transfer to mobiles. By 2002, “third generation” mobiles will provide video-based services, such as clips and postcards. Mobile e-commerce capabilities are also in the pipeline.
Vodafone has yet to decide whether the Man Utd phones will be pre-pay packages or part of a subscriber-based service. They will be sold through a wide range of retail channels, rather than ones specific to the club or sports in general.
The sponsorship gives Vodafone the right to use the Man Utd brand in advertising and promotions.
Donovan says separate negotiations would be required if Vodafone wanted to use the team or individual players in its branded ads, adding that the company has no plans to do so.
But Vodafone plans to increase its advertising around football matches. Last year, it spent &£23m on UK ads (AC Nielsen), with BMP OMD handling media.
Vodafone Interactive has signed a deal with BSkyB to develop sports, news and entertainment content that can be delivered to mobiles through the Internet and short messaging services.