Manchester United team up with Unilever to push sporting culture in Southeast Asia

The Anglo-Dutch company will have the football giants' aid as both strive to reach out to consumers in the region after signing a three-year sponsorship agreement
Manchester United has formed a three-year regional partnership with Unilever in Southeast Asia to promote a sporting culture in nine rapidly developing markets.

The agreement sees Unilever become the English side's official Personal Care and Laundry Partner in nine countries, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

The sponsorship signing ceremony took place on Monday afternoon at Unilever's Singapore office, with Peter ter Kulve, president of Unilever, South East Asia and Australasia, and Jamie Reigle, Manchester United’s Asia Pacific managing director in attendance, along with former United striker Andy Cole.

"When you look at our part of the world, especially when it comes to kids, a lot of focus is on academics, but not a lot on physical wellbeing," Ter Kulve pointed out.

"We believe that simulating these kids to do more sports is not only good for their bodies, but also very good for their mental development. By losing and by winning, you grow. We really believe that with Man Utd, we can build more of a sports culture."

The Dutchman also hopes the partnership can help Unilever connect with consumers from emerging markets, as well as to stimulate the male grooming market.

Reigle hailed the joining of two "great companies", describing Unilever's vision as "bold" and touched on the example of current United star Robin van Persie.

"When Peter's compatriot Robin van Persie joined Manchester United [from Arsenal], he was asked why," he recalled.

"What he said [was] when I have to make these difficult life decisions, I look at and ask the little boy inside me 'what do you want to do?', and he said that little boy wants Manchester United.

"And if Manchester United has the power to motivate a guy of Van Persie's talent and success, then we are very confident we can help motivate the youth and children of Southeast Asia to get out and play football."

The partnership will also see the Manchester United Soccer Schools programme brought to all nine markets starting early next year, instead of being based physically in Singapore and Jakarta, Indonesia.

"It is a product that takes all the coaching methodologies, the discipline and the hard work, and codifies that into a concept of how to play the Manchester United way, and Unilever was very keen to collaborate on that platform to encourage children in Southeast Asia to play," Reigle explained.

"One of the reasons we are very excited about this programme is that it is going to be geographically spread out, and that is consistent with Manchester United’s approach to using that platform to grow the sport."