Hearts have agreed a new two-year commercial kit deal with manufacturer Umbro that will net the club an undisclosed seven-figure sum each year. As part of the sponsorship arrangement Hearts will be the sole UK distributor of all replica merchandise
-Two year agreement is biggest commercial kit sponsor deal in Hearts' history
-Worth a seven figure sum per annum to Hearts
-Hearts to become sole UK distributor of replica merchandise
-New home and away kit each season
-Unique kit designs for Hearts
Heart of Midlothian Football Club (Hearts) announce that Umbro is to become exclusive kit sponsor to the Edinburgh-based football club after signing a two year agreement worth an undisclosed seven figure sum per annum - the biggest such deal in the club's history.
As part of this sponsorship agreement Hearts will become the sole UK distributor of all replica club merchandise which will be sold exclusively in the club's flagship stores situated at Tynecastle Stadium, in Edinburgh City Centre and in Livingston.
All replica club merchandise will also be available online at the club's official website, www.heartsfc.co.uk
Outside the UK Hearts have exclusive rights to use Umbro's 47 licences in over 90 countries.
Hearts and Umbro will jointly design unique kits on an annual basis, taking into account the need for an identity which reflects Hearts unique Edinburgh and Scottish brand.
This is not the first time that Umbro has been involved in partnership with Hearts. Between 1975 and 1976 and 1985 and 1986 Umbro provided Hearts with team kit.
Now, 21 years on, Hearts chairman and acting chief executive Roman Romanov is welcoming back an internationally recognised brand to Tynecastle Stadium. He said: "We are delighted to have agreed such a partnership with Umbro. This deal will allow us to take our retail operations on to the next level, supported, in particular, by re-introducing our own exclusive replica kit merchandise rights in the UK.
"We expect to benefit from Umbro's extensive global retail marketing experience and look forward to developing a very strong relationship which can only benefit our supporters.
"Umbro is a company with a remarkable global heritage, and an extensive sporting presence both at club and international level, and with our own extensive ambitions we believe both businesses will benefit in the next two years from this deal."
Umbro acts as kit sponsor to more than 150 teams in 47 different countries covering every continent in the World. Principle partnership clubs include Everton and West Bromwich Albion (England), Rangers (Scotland), Besiktas (Turkey) and Lyon (France).
In addition Umbro has a strong international presence as partner to a number of major national teams including England, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Northern Ireland.
Umbro's director of football Simon Marsh commented: "It is with great pleasure that we have now added Heart of Midlothian to our international portfolio of contracted teams.
"In the past 18 months we have worked hard to implement our strategy of creating geographical representation within the United Kingdom. To add Hearts is fantastic news for the brand as it provides Umbro with a platform in Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh.
"Umbro look forward to partnering the Club as they strive towards domestic success and a greater profile within European football.
"It was evident from the outset that both parties had a desire to work together and I'm therefore delighted that this was achieved for an initial two year period. Umbro hope this will be a platform for the club to go onto achieve greater success both on and off the field of play."
In the last twelve months Hearts has enjoyed a massive increase in retail sales. The club now operates three flagship stores: the Heart of Midlothian Superstore at Tynecastle; the Heart of Midlothian located at the St James Shopping Centre in Edinburgh City Centre at the east end of Princes Street; and the Heart of Midlothian Store in the Almondvale Shopping Centre, Livingston. In addition the club is continuing to plan for the launch of further stores in other areas on the east coast.
the club's online store, www.heartsdirect.co.uk has also seen massive rises in sales with more than 600 products now available via mail order.
Year on year Hearts retail operations have enjoyed a 60% rise in turnover, while last year's 2006/07 kit launch was the most successful in the history of the club by more than 30%.
Hearts new away shirt is expected to be launched in June with the home shirt to follow in July in time for supporters' summer holidays. An extensive marketing campaign, particularly focusing on the club's identity, will be launched in the coming months to help pre-sales.
Sergejus hails deal
Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas last night hailed the club's new two-year record breaking deal with Umbro as a sign of significant progress off the field at Tynecastle.
Speaking at the launch of the two year partnership, which is worth a seven figure sum per annum to the Edinburgh side, Sergejus revealed the deal with Umbro is a sign that the Hearts brand is increasing in stature.
"I am more than sure that the interest in Hearts has increased in the last couple of years as a result of the management team of the club," he said.
"It shows the ambition and it shows that we really do the work and we are pushing towards good results and that is the target - to increase the popularity of the club, increase the profile of the club, and I think that partnership with this prime brand shows that Hearts are really big and becoming bigger."
Sergejus revealed that the spin off from this deal will effect an improvement of all areas of the business. "I think there are two sides of the coin," he reflected.
"There is the finance side of the coin which is an integral part of the business of the club and there is the profile side that everyone will be delighted to be associated with this big brand. That increases the profile and the awareness and we are more than happy to proceed.
"The plans are to improve the revenue and to sustain costs. Everything is done in a controlled manner at the club. Nothing goes out of hand. We were planning for this, we always needed to increase investment."
Commercial director Ali Russell explained the true value of this agreement could be the net impact of Umbro's international standing.
"Part of the benefit that Umbro gives us is that it is a worldwide brand distributing in 100 countries worldwide," he said. "With the increased coverage we're getting of Hearts, not just in this country, but across the world we hope to capture this.
"Intrinsically we're hoping to develop Hearts. We'd love us to be people's favourite team, and if no that then people's second team. We want to be an alternative to the Old Firm. We're new, we're fresh and we're taking a different perspective to football, creating a lot of interest in the SPL going forward.
"We are in a new perspective and people are not used to that and it makes a lot of people unhappy or envious, but we have to overcome this and we will."
Simon Marsh, director of sports marketing at Umbro also confirmed that Hearts is a business that his organisation is delighted to be involved in. "You have to look at what we're trying to get out of this relationship: authenticity and a profile in the sport," he said.
"The very fact that what's going on at Hearts the length and the breadth of the UK gives us an increased profile and we see it as a position for our brand and would imagine that the club sees that as a position as they are getting talked about further a field than just Edinburgh and Scotland."
Of course in order to sell more replica shirts you need to win trophies on a regular basis. "I think that could come over a period of time," Simon identified. "They have to sustain a challenge to the big two in this market place and if they can do that then the popularity of this club will grow, not just in this domestic market, but overseas."
Simon Marsh also praised the Hearts board of directors and management team for their determination to conclude a deal. He added: "I think in my statement I made the point that there was an absolute desire to find a solution to the issues [that come with negotiations]. That was from both sides. The dealings I have had to date have all been great."
Meanwhile, Sergejus Fedotovas was keen to emphasise that Hearts will not rest on their laurels after agreeing the Umbro deal, focusing upon more key targets - on and off the field. He also confirmed that supporters should not worry about any worse case scenarios.
"I don't want to discuss if Vladimir was not here," he said. "We're not in discussion about this. The one thing I can say is that Ubig is a corporation and it is run by a management group that runs a number of businesses. It is not just one person who manages the business.
"The results have not been overly fantastic for us, but it shows that we need to work and we are working heavily to reach the desired position and we will be challenging and we will continue to challenge.
"We went through a phase that we had to go through and that's the way. I don't think you can change anything. I think that this is the planned route and you have to go through it and meet the challenges.
"We are starting to work and we will continue to work to bring the club ultimate success on the national and international playing fields. It takes time and it takes effort. It is not at the click of a finger.
"I think we were lucky last season because a lot of people just did not expect us to be winning. This season everyone tries to knock us off. We face this resistance both on and off the field and that is the reality that we find ourselves in."