On the day our record-breaking sponsorship deal kicks off, Commercial Director Ian Ayre tells us why Liverpool FC and Standard Chartered Bank will prove to be a winning combination.
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It's day one of our partnership with Standard Chartered Bank - how big a day is this in the history of Liverpool FC?
It's a massive day for us all. Since I have been here over the last three years all we have been setting up to do is raise the profile of the business commercially by growing our family of partners. Standard Chartered couldn't be a better partner for us.
How much work has been taking place behind the scenes to prepare for today?
We have been doing a tremendous amount of work. This is such a big change for them and they have set up an internal team especially to deal with Liverpool. They have been involved in sponsorship at a lower level in other sports before, but this is a very new thing for them. There has been a lot of planning, a lot of budgeting and a lot of working together to find out how we can both get the best possible return on their investment. We have probably done more work on this than we've ever done on any sponsorship, but it's very exciting for everybody concerned.
What was it about Standard Chartered which convinced you they were the right partner for Liverpool?
It was a cultural thing more than anything. We were very pleased that so many people showed so much interest. Finding the right value and the right investment wasn't as difficult as some people might have imagined. Liverpool Football Club is a very unique product, it's a very special product, so the way we conduct ourselves as a football club and the way we act when we market ourselves internationally is very different to other clubs. Our fans are different, our history is different, so it was important we found the right fit and in Standard Chartered we have found a great partner that mirrors many of those cultural things.
They are a huge bank in Asia, Middle East and Africa but are relatively unknown in the UK. They conduct themselves in a particular way, their customer is a particular type of customer and we found very early on in the discussions that we work the same way in many areas.
What does it say about the global appeal of Liverpool FC that such a high profile organisation wanted to be associated with us?
For them it was about finding somebody that mirrored their ambition, their market and their audience - and we do that. There aren't many clubs that are truly big in the parts of the world they are interested in exploring. Lots of teams are on TV there but there are only a few teams who hit the button and hit the market they are looking for.
Their sponsorship is about growing their brand and giving them exposure to a wider audience. Working together we can achieve our objectives. Many people in this country won't know Standard Chartered very well, but from my experience working and living in South East Asia, China and Hong Kong, it is huge brand with lots of credibility. People respect that brand and respect them as an organisation. I'd like people to feel like that about us as we grow our brand and continue our exploits in other markets. I'd like people to feel the same way about them as they do about us, we're special, we treat people the right way and do things the right way for our fans. That's why we're special. Having a partner that mirrors our values is very important.
And, like Liverpool, Standard Chartered are well known for their charity and community work...
Yes, they are currently involved in a couple of large Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects, sight restoration being the biggest. Likewise, Liverpool has a lot of community projects and exciting things going on and so our objectives are to bring the two together. We're in very early talks about how we integrate with their programmes and find new initiatives. In July we're planning to run soccer camps for them in Kenya - and that's just the start of a variety of opportunities we'll put together.
Standard Chartered boast a workforce in excess of 70,000 staff - how much have you had an insight into the excitement which has been building ahead of today's launch?
It's amazing. They have always said people who work for them are excited about their jobs and I have seen that especially in two instances.
On the day of the announcement back in September they organised 60 press conferences around the world at their operations. They also ran an internal intranet based competition and I was told it was the biggest response they'd ever had to any internal communication. That speaks volumes.
Also, when the new shirt was launched a few weeks ago, Standard Chartered employees had the chance to come in early and purchase the shirt. The response was phenomenal and was bigger than any single order from any single organisation we have ever seen. It shows how much buy in there is from staff at Standard Chartered. My team and the rest of the staff at Liverpool are very focused on returning that and making sure they feel as welcome as they've made us feel.
What does this deal say about the work being carried out by your team to drive our club forward?
All of our partners are important because they all play a different part in a different area of our business. It's not just about the amount of money - although that's important and was a significant amount - but what it does do is show we have the potential to be the biggest and best at everything we do, and that's what we're continually striving to do commercially. We have great people in our commercial team to make sure we serve all the different people and all the different stakeholders in the football club; whether it be our fans, partners or corporate partners.
This deal is a stake in the ground to say this is where we are commercially. There's definitely more to come. It's not just about sponsorships, there'll be lots of activities in many areas, but it's always to serve the greater purpose which is to deliver better value to fans and to deliver on the pitch so the manager has more money to spend in the transfer market. It's a landmark deal which sets the tone for the future.
As the person who ultimately did this deal for Liverpool, how excited are you today?
When I took up this position I set myself two or three landmark places to get to in a certain amount of time and I'd say this is the first big one achieved. But there's lots more to come. I couldn't imagine a better partner for Liverpool FC going forward. They mirror all of our aspirations in terms of where they are, they have the right cultural fit and they are an amazing organisation to work with. Everybody in my team who has had the most exposure to them says they are an absolute dream to work with, they're very engaged, very passionate, and they are things which matter most to us.
We've had great success over the years with another name on our shirts - how satisfying would it be to see our players celebrating trophy victories wearing the name of Standard Chartered?
I think every fan and everybody at Standard Chartered would love to see the day when we're lifting a trophy with the name of our new sponsor on our shirts. That's what we all want and I would absolutely expect to see it across the term of their sponsorship.