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That ubiquitous bright-red football jersey — imitated in German beer halls,Bangkok’s counterfeit markets and Indian “fashion streets...

Published:January 22, 2009 11:25 pm

That ubiquitous bright-red football jersey — imitated in German beer halls,Bangkok’s counterfeit markets and Indian “fashion streets” — might soon have an Indian stamp on it. Rumour mills have gone into overdrive with news that the iconic football club Manchester United has asked the Indian Sahara group to sponsor their T-shirts. Reports suggest that both Man U and the Sahara group have confirmed that an offer has indeed been made.

Man U is that quintessential British institution with very British qualities: underperformance,thuggish supporters,and aspirations of global conquest. In very different ways,the Sahara group too is quintessentially Indian,and their imprint on the heart of British popular culture will be re-colonisation at its most telling. But Man U is also a global brand,with its players — and their wives-and-girlfriends — known the world over. Just when an assertive corporate India is treading on global roads,a footprint on arguably the world’s biggest cultural symbol may gladden Indian hearts.

But the move also shines light on the global financial crisis. The insurance bellwether AIG,Man U’s sponsors for many years,almost plunged into bankruptcy last year,and had to be rescued with an $85 billion US government bailout — which later swelled to about $152 billion. Obviously that contract,worth $100 million,may not be reviewed. Once upon a time,tobacco companies used to be big sponsors of sport. Brand analysts believed cigarette manufacturers needed the display of fine health on the field to mask the deleterious effects of their products. May it be the case now that companies will consider using the sport field to make assertions of corporate good health?

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