Company: Aon Corp.
Years in current job: 5
Quote: “Any investment in your people is ultimately an investment in your customers.”
One of the perks of Aon Corp.'s reported $130 million, four-year sponsorship of English Premier League soccer club Manchester United is that the Aon brand is now all over the Internet.
Just last month, Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov scored a hat trick, and the most spectacular of the goals—a Pelé-like bicycle kick into the net—was a viral video sensation. Decorating as it does Manchester United's jerseys, the Aon logo was all over the video.
“Isn't that beautiful?” Phil Clement, Aon's global chief marketing and communications officer, said. “It's amazing when you start to see our logo everywhere.”
But broad branding is just a side dish for Clement, who masterminded Aon's Manchester United sponsorship, which was officially launched this past summer. For him the main course of this sponsorship is unifying the company internally around a single image—Manchester United—that means teamwork and excellence on a global scale.
“The Manchester United shirt sponsorship is a very effective tool for what we're trying to get done,” Clement said. “The first thing was to unify our firm. Right now we have 500 offices in 120 countries and 36,000 employees.”
Aon, which was built through hundreds of acquisitions over the past two decades, is poised to merge with human resources consultancy Hewitt Associates, expanding the combined company to 620 offices with 52,000 employees.
Clement also said the sponsorship makes Aon's marketing, particularly its event marketing, much more efficient. In the past, the company sponsored a variety of events around the world, including dragon boat races and beer festivals.
Now the marketing focus is clearly on Aon's relationship with Manchester United. Clement said much of the marketing around the world's most famous soccer club is driven by lead generation.
For example, Aon offers Manchester United-autographed soccer balls to potential customers that agree to a risk assessment. Other parts of the company have hosted game watches for potential customers. And in the U.S. the company has invited the children of customers and prospects to “skills and drills” sessions with coaches affiliated with ManU.
Manchester United has global brand recognition, stretching into Africa and Asia, as well as the U.S. Clement was thrilled earlier this year when the club signed Javier Hernandez, a Mexican soccer player. “That just gave us a huge boost in one more country and region that's important to us,” he said.
Clement said he first viewed the sponsorship through a very businesslike lens but quickly came to experience the emotions the soccer club brings out in its fans around the world.
“When I got involved [in thinking about the sponsorship], it was very ‘Vulcan,' ” Clement said. “It was all logical. I had no personal interest in the sport. But now my mood gets impacted by whether or not we win or lose.”