AO acquires naming rights to Manchester Arena

Manchester Arena has undergone a rebrand after signing a five-year naming-rights deal with Bolton-based online electricals retailer AO.

The agreement officially renames the venue as AO Arena and the deal has been signed as operator ASM Global submitted a planning application for the first phase of the facility’s redevelopment project.

AO will support the venue as it looks to resume live music and entertainment shows once COVID-19 restrictions on venues are lifted.

AO Arena’s redevelopment plans, which have been submitted to Manchester City Council by ASM Global, will look to transform the visitor experience and improve the sustainability of the 21,000-seat arena as it seeks to become one of the lowest carbon venues in Europe.

The arena has been without a naming-rights sponsor since 2015, when Phones 4u’s deal with the venue expired after the company ceased trading. Prior to that, the arena was sponsored by the Manchester Evening News and NYNEX.

AO Arena general manager James Allen said: “We are thrilled to have secured this partnership and we look forward to a dynamic relationship with this exciting brand. Marking our 25th anniversary with redevelopment plans and our new partnership with AO highlights our commitment to the future of this venue in the heart of Manchester. And after such a long period of pause, we look forward to being able to press play and welcome fans back to the AO Arena.”

AO founder and chief executive John Roberts added: “The arena holds a special place in the hearts of so many people in Manchester so we’re hugely proud to add the AO smile, especially after such an emotional and difficult period. Our home is firmly in the North West, something we’ve never forgotten while building the business into a global destination for electricals.

“We hope today’s redevelopment plans for the AO Arena which, combined with soon-to-be-announced good news about the events coming in 2021, will create hope and excitement about the future of entertainment in our great city.”

Back in March, an early-stage redevelopment vision was unveiled for AO Arena that would expand its overall capacity to 24,000 and make it the largest indoor arena in Europe.

Planning application for the redevelopment of the arena has been submitted after Oak View Group (OVG) last month stepped up its mission to deliver a new 23,500-capacity arena in Manchester by releasing new research it claimed reaffirmed the “latent demand” for a second major arena in the city.

OVG is planning a new arena on a site at the Etihad Campus and submitted a planning application to Manchester City Council in April. The project has drawn opposition from ASM Global, which in June lodged a formal objection to the planning application, highlighting the “astounding nature” of the market projections for the rival project.

Image: AO Arena