London, Mar 24: Boosted by the utmost popularity of the club in India, Manchester United is all set to make its entry into the country.
Besides entering into a five-year deal, worth £12 million with the Indian mobile communications company Bharti Airtel on May 2009, United is planning a visit to India in 2012.
The club has launched a Manchester United cafe in India and coaches are traveling to the country to tap and train young talents who can help India to make it to the 2022 World Cup.
Manchester United's interest in India was triggered by the Bayern Munich's visit to Kolkata in May 2008, which saw a turn out 120,000 fans to cheer the Germans.
Noting the popularity of the IPL in accelerating sports advertising, Manchester United has a set of plans line up to utilize the clubs appeal in India.
"In Europe, 86 per cent of all sponsorship goes to sport. In India, that figure is just 10 per cent. We expect that to change. Football is the second-most popular sport behind cricket in India and there is a huge English-speaking audience who actively watch football,"Casper Stylsvig, United's sponsorship manager said.
"We will visit India in the future, but we do have a small window for such trips abroad. And our research has shown that our closed season coincides with India's monsoon season, so there are certain issues to overcome," he said.
United's London-based commercial operation, Glazer has projected 20 million supporters in India, with their fixtures broadcast to 1.15 billion homes in 2008-09.
The United's Champions League final victory against Chelsea in May 2008 was watched by 267 million people in the country.
Recently, United in colloboration with +91 Europe, a network of Indian CEO's, which works at enhancing the United's value to prospective Indian partners hosted a global brands event in an Old Trafford suite dominated by vast images of Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Ji-Sung Park.
Vouching on the mass appeal of the club among the Indians, Rakesh Rawal, founder of +91 Europe, said that United has become a household name.
"Until 10 years ago, everybody returning to India from the UK would be asked to take one thing home to his friends and family – a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky. Now, the first request is for a red Manchester United shirt, then a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky!" Rakesh Rawal said.
"As India has largely shrugged off the global downturn, I can see many Indian multi-nationals becoming household names in the next five to 10 years and it will be fascinating to see which Indian companies embrace global sports like football to enhance their global brand recognition."
And while the United is determined to stake its claim in India, is has no plans to 'dilute the brand' by acquiring an IPL franchise.