Samsung considers sponsoring Barca, AC Milan

Samsung Electronics plans to make more deals with football clubs in Europe given its success with shirt sponsorship for English football giant Chelsea last year. Barcelona of Spain and AC Milan of Italy are being considered by the world's third largest mobile phone maker, Hwang Seong-soo, Samsung's global marketing executiv, told Cho Jin-seo of the Korea Times. The possible deals are expected to amount to up to $30 million per year.

"It was a fantastic decision for Samsung to sponsor Chelsea. We already have earned more than we invested, so we are considering making other sponsorships with big football clubs in Europe,'' Hwang said. ``We have done research and a profitability analysis for FC Barcelona of Spain and AC Milan of Italy.''

Hwang said that the Chelsea sponsorship boosted its mobile phone sales in Britain to become the top brand over Nokia. The monthly handset sales in the country surged 58 percent from August to October, from 228,000 to 359,000. Samsung's market share also rose accordingly. It was 12 percent last February before signing the sponsorship deal and it increased to 18 percent in October. Samsung was also recognized as the most satisfying handset brand in Britain in 2005's consumer survey, the company said.

Until last year, South Korea's largest conglomerate shunned football and preferred baseball, rugby and golf as its corporate sports. But after recognizing the unmatched influence of football as a marketing tool, Samsung is also turning its eyes towards the world's most popular sport. The Chelsea deal was the first outcome of such efforts.

"Samsung has been investing in sporting events with premium images, such as the Olympics and equestrian events. But we are gradually leaning toward sports that have more passion, such as football,'' Hwang said. "The Chelsea deal was a very successful case because the two [Samsung and Chelsea] shared the same corporate color [blue] and brand image _ a rising star and a fastest growing brand,'' he said.

Samsung's final decision may come in June after the European football season ends. "The football season is still going on in Europe, and we will get the final evaluation on the Chelsea investment around June when the season is over. We will look at the results and decide whether to make another partnership,'' Hwang said.