Flybe poised to sponsor Canaries

CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City will be sponsored by low fares airline Flybe next season, the EDP can reveal. The Exeter-based company, whose profile at Carrow Road has risen in the last six months, has quickly stepped in to back the best-supported club in the Championship.

CHRIS LAKEY

Norwich City will be sponsored by low fares airline Flybe next season, the EDP can reveal.

The Canaries' current deal with Proton and Lotus Cars expires at the end of the current campaign, but the Exeter-based company, whose profile at Carrow Road has risen in the last six months, has quickly stepped in to back the best-supported club in the Championship.

The company expect to sign a “multi-million-pound” three-year deal later this week with a formal announcement being made some time next week, although details of the kit that Norwich City players will wear in the Championship next season have yet to be revealed.

The exact financial details aren't being revealed, although a source confirmed to the EDP yesterday that it was performance related.

Flybe, which began operating from Norwich International airport last year, launching services to 15 destinations, plan to fly the first team to matches around the United Kingdom whenever possible, although there are currently no plans for them to have an aircraft of their own, in much the same way as they currently travel to away games in a Lotus-Proton coach.

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The company will have exclusive rights to home and away strips - eagerly anticipated by supporters and an integral part of any sponsorship deal - for the first team and the reserves, although the final design has yet to be confirmed. There will also be ticket give-aways for fans for home games.

Flybe also sponsor hometown club Exeter City and Premiership strugglers Birmingham City - and yesterday officially announced a three-year sponsorship deal with Southampton - although there is no conflict of interest.

“There is a big relevance for Flybe in Norwich,” said the source. “They are heavily involved in football at Birmingham and Exeter and have also had relationships with Bristol City and Southampton and they tend to use football as a way of giving something back to the community. They work in communities that are relevant to the company and have a big operational base for Flybe. Norwich has become a big operational base for the company in the last 12 months and, after working with them for the last six months, they see the club as having a nice culture.

“The opportunity has come up at the right time and the brand fitting was good.”

The deals with Birmingham and Exeter each have one more season to run, with Flybe having exercised their option to renew the deals: Birmingham's original deal was for two years, and that has been extended by another two, while Exeter's deal was for three years, extended by another one.

There is every possibility that Flybe will have two teams in the Championship next season, should Birmingham fail to avoid the drop, but the source said yesterday they would welcome such exposure.

“I think it would be favourable - Flybe could see the potential of two teams playing each other,” he said.

Proton and Lotus Cars have been City's sponsors for the past three years, a stretch that included a spell in the Premiership - with the first team's pre-season tour taking them to Malaysia, where Proton are based.

And while the sponsors said they were happy to continue their association with the club, they decided to switch to a new commercial strategy seeking more direct marketing opportunities rather than the branding provided by shirt sponsorship.

A Norwich City spokesman said yesterday: “We have not signed any agreement with any sponsor at this moment in time but as soon as that changes we will let the fans and the media know.”