November 28, 2006 10:27
Manchester United forward Park Ji-sung’s popularity shows no signs of weakening. He has been resting for months since an ankle injury in September but was tops in the list of sports-related searches at Yahoo Korea this year, the company announced last week. He has even managed to cut a swathe in the financial sector: the Shinhan Manchester United Master Card that makes use of the star signed up 600,000 customers since it was first offered in February, a Shinhan Bank official said Monday.
Man U's commercial director Andy Anson also confirms the Park Ji-sung effect. Asked by Singapore's Electric New Paper whether Park, the first Asian to play for Man U, has helped increase the club’s appeal in Asia, Anson responded, "That is difficult to say, since the club never singles out individual players to promote itself. But the credit card that we launched in Korea in February this year already has 410,000 cardholders." The gap in numbers, a whopping 200,000, between bank and team is apparently due to a different corresponding period, but either way the figures are impressive.
Every six months, Shinhan runs a draw where three lucky cardholders are given tickets to see Man U in action. It also gives away T-shirts and pendants signed by the athletes. In Asia, the card is available in Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand -- and the 600,000 cards allegedly sold in Korea are more than in the rest combined. In the whole world, there are 60 million of the Man U credit cards in circulation.
The industry admits the credit card was this year’s big hit. As for Park, he is working hard towards rehabilitation six days a week and three hours a day at Man U’s Carrington training field. He is already able to play mini games with the other players. If the rehabilitation goes well, Park is expected play in the away game against Aston Villa on Dec.23.
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