The Co-op’s acquisition of naming rights to the planned new 23,500-seat arena in the English city of Manchester represents the “next step forward” in its effort to create change in the entertainment and retail industries, according to the consumer co-operative.

The company last month signed a 15-year agreement with developer Oak View Group (OVG), with the future arena granted the moniker of Co-op Live. The new arena aims to become one of the world’s premier music and entertainment venues, rivalling New York’s Madison Square Garden, The Forum in LA and The O2 in London.

The Co-op’s deal has a reported price tag of around £100m (€110.1m/$129.6m). Asked to comment on the financial terms of the contract, Amanda Jennings, director of marketing engagement at the Co-op, told “We’ve committed to a 15-year partnership, worth several million pounds across the 15-year term, that will drive real value for all and bring our vision to life.

“The deal guarantees a minimum of £1m in annual donations from the arena to local communities and causes around the UK.”

The agreement was struck at a time when many companies are taking a hard look at their marketing budgets during COVID-19. However, the Co-op has a long-term outlook when it comes to the potential benefits of the association. “We’re confident that the live entertainment industry will recover and that we’ll all be able to enjoy going to concerts and live shows soon,” said Jennings.

“For the next three years the project will create thousands of building jobs to help regenerate the area as the country recovers from COVID and the recession. On opening, the venue will continue to create opportunity for skills, education and employment throughout the area on both a full and part time basis.

“Research shows that the venue will generate more events in the city, attracting more visitors for the benefit of city businesses. The arena is set to open in 2023, and we’re excited to be supporting this investment in Manchester’s live entertainment market which will be part of a bounce back and return to growth for the industry.”

Member-owned Co-op, which is the largest consumer co-operative in the UK, has developed a significant presence within the UK’s music scene, with pop-up shops at festivals such as Glastonbury. The Co-op Live deal represents a significant increase in ambition and a natural next step, according to Jennings.

She said: “Co-op is a convenience community retailer with a broad customer base, and one of the more recent ways we have engaged with our customers is through our music festival stores. In an industry-first initiative, we started our music festival stores in 2018 when we built a 6,000 square foot shop at four Live Nation music festivals – Download, Latitude, Leeds and Reading.

“In 2019, we increased this to six Live Nation music festivals plus the big one – Glastonbury – where we were the first national food retailer to build a shop at the Worthy farm site. This partnership represents the next step forward in this journey, providing a collaboration of influential brands coming together to create change in the entertainment and retail industries.

“It creates a huge number of channels in which value is delivered back to our business, our communities and our colleagues and it gives us a huge opportunity to showcase our Co-op difference through communicating our values to a new, engaged and diverse audience. The venue will embody what makes Co-op great – convenience, value, quality, Fairtrade, sustainability and creating a fairer world. 

“The partnership will allow us to give back to our communities in Manchester and around the UK through money raised through the venue. Donations from the arena of over £1m per year will go to the Co-op Foundation.

“The partnership will continue our investment in people and communities through the regeneration of East Manchester, providing new skills and employment at a much-needed time in our history. The arena will lead the way and create a new benchmark for others to follow – championing sustainability, ethical sourcing, celebrating local produce and having a positive impact on the environment.

“The partnership will create opportunities for our communities, colleagues and members to access best-in-class entertainment events, in the heart of Manchester. Our members and colleagues will have exclusive pre-sales.”

The Co-op is synonymous with Manchester, opening its first offices in the city in 1863. The Co-op envisions the naming rights project as allowing it to play a vital role in the continued development of its home city to showcase the power of co-operation and community and its vision to co-operate for a fairer world.

Along with the circa £1m per year in donations to good causes across the UK, the Co-op will play a key role in the arena’s vision to become one of the most sustainable and socially responsible buildings of its type in Europe. The project will be at the forefront of Manchester’s zero carbon agenda and help to tackle food poverty via a zero-food waste initiative.

The Co-op will back the arena’s apprenticeship programme and provide direct employment opportunities for its six secondary and college academies across Greater Manchester. Once open, the Co-op will offer its members a whole host of exclusive benefits at Co-op Live including: pre-sale tickets up to seven days before general release; discounts on food and beverage; hospitality experiences, the chance to win free tickets and exclusive, money can’t buy, backstage VIP experiences; plus priority entry-access to the venue.

The arena will also sell Co-op’s ethically sourced food range. Jennings added: “Manchester is our home town and this partnership brings regeneration to a part of the city we love, bringing a world class, sustainable events venue to the North West, opportunity to raise money for the local communities and to provide significant value and opportunities for our members and colleagues. 

“The new arena will bring £350m in private investment to Manchester, as well as creating 3,350 jobs during construction and a further 1,000 once open. It is expected to contribute up to £1.5bn of additional economic activity over 20 years.”

The deal was signed just days after Manchester City Council approved OVG’s plans for the new arena. The facility will be located on the Etihad Campus adjacent to Etihad Stadium, home of Premier League football club Manchester City.

Co-op Live is set to host music events as well as awards shows, international sporting events and tournaments, entertainment shows and emerging formats such as esports. OVG hopes to commence work in November, with the arena scheduled to open in 2023.

Images: OVG