It emerged this week that prior to the completion of Wonga’s controversial sponsorship deal with Newcastle United, Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias made an audacious attempt to set up a lucrative agreement with brewing giants Guinness. In an effort to tap into the growing African market, Newcastle had been looking at forging a commercial relationship with Guinness’s parent company, Diageo, who have an international base in Nigeria. Plans have long been afoot at St James’ Park to create a football nursery in one of the continent’s English-speaking countries and it seemed that this could be a match made in heaven.
Despite being an internationally-renowned institution in the beer world, Guinness have recently reported a marginal downturn in sales in Ireland, the UK and Europe and had been keen to examine the possibility of creating a mutually-beneficial commercial partnership with Newcastle United. With Newcastle having cemented their place in the Premier League since their promotion in 2010 and also having returned to competitive European action in the Europa League this season, Diageo had earmarked Mike Ashley’s charges as a perfect fit – with the matching black and white colour motifs of the two outfits being a marketing man’s dream.
However, the deal reached an impasse when Mike Ashley and Co requested the naming rights of Guinness’s flagship brewery at St James’s Gate, Dublin. They had been interested in exploring the possibility of renaming the famous brewery as the ‘SportsDirect.com @ St James’s Gate Brewery’ in keeping with their re-branding of the erstwhile St James’ Park but the head honchos at Diageo vetoed the move and the deal ultimately fell apart.