Yankees Cut a Deal with the (Red) Devils

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The New York Yankees may be "World Champions," but they're not quite a global household name — at least not when compared with mighty Manchester United, the marquee name of British football and the world's wealthiest and most storied soccer team. To close the gap, the Bronx Bombers have signed a deal with the Red Devils that will allow them to package both teams as a bundle to sponsors, broadcasters and merchandisers. TIME business editor Bill Saporito parses the deal:

What exactly can two teams who dominate different games on different continents do for each other?

This is essentially a marketing exchange. Manchester United is the most recognized sports franchise in the world. You can buy their souvenirs in Hong Kong, and they even have a number of supporters' clubs in the U.S. It's a brand that's recognized around the world, and with soccer growing quickly in the U.S., it may also be the most recognizable soccer brand here — particularly in New York. Go to any sports bar in Manhattan at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, and it'll be packed with Manchester United supporters wearing the team's colors and watching live broadcasts from the British Premier Division.

Soccer is obviously the bigger game, with a far larger international audience. But interest in baseball is growing in Japan, China and Europe. And when it comes to baseball, the Yankees have the same sort of name recognition as Manchester United. I was at a soccer stadium in Rome over Christmas, and there were a lot of Yankees caps — and they weren't being worn by Americans. Both teams are among the elite of internationally known sports franchises, and their joint marketing deal is a logical extension of the reach of each one's brand. It's really a no-lose situation.

What types of deals could come out of the new arrangement?

Well, the Yankees have cable TV deals, and if, for example, they were to try to get their own cable TV channel, they'd need programming. You could get a pretty decent rating for Manchester United games on cable in the U.S. The British Premiership, in which Manchester United play, is a big league — you can watch its weekly highlights just about anywhere in the world. So there are countless opportunities for cross-marketing and global programming.

This may be the first of many such deals in the future. U.S. companies have begun to invest in European soccer teams, because it's already a global game.

You note that soccer is growing in the U.S., so it's interesting that the Yankees chose to partner with a British soccer franchise rather than with one based here....

Well, Major League Soccer may have its own brand and teams, but it isn't global. If you're going to make a branding deal, you want to achieve the maximum global reach for your own brand, which in terms of soccer means that you have to partner with Manchester United or Juventus or one of a handful of other major European teams. Still, anything that raises the profile of soccer will be good for the game in the U.S.