THE BFS Group Limited is to replace Invest In Africa as Sunderland’s main sponsor next season in a money-spinning deal for the club.
The food distribution business is the UK arm of South African mega-corporation The Bidvest Group Limited – the largest food service business in the world outside of North America.
And the clinching of the deal is another sign of Sunderland’s growing stature and influence in Africa.
Earlier this year, the club announced a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation - a first in world football.
And the Black Cats will retain links with the Invest In Africa campaign, although at a lower public level than last season.
From next season, the club’s shirts will bear the name BFS Group Limited and the UK company will also be involved in perimeter advertising and supporting players in local community events in the UK.
BFS Group is the main UK operation of Bidvest, which is based in South Africa but employs more than 100,000 people across four continents.
The Bidvest Group also owns Bidvest Wits - one of the largest football clubs in Africa – and this new link-up will allow Sunderland to share coaching and business expertise with the South African side.
Sunderland AFC chief executive Margaret Byrne said: “We are absolutely delighted to be entering into a partnership with The BFS Group and Bidvest.
“The group’s credentials in terms of community support are akin to our own and this takes our club to a whole new level in terms of its international commercial activity.
“Whilst Sunderland will always be a club defined by its proud regional history and heritage, in order for the club to continue to move forward, building our reputation and presence internationally becomes a key focus.
“I am sure this will be a very fruitful partnership for both parties.”
Bidvest’s Brian Joffe, said: “Sunderland is the perfect partner for us in the UK where we deliver food and drink to over 50,000 businesses each week.
“The support that Sunderland offers to their local community, setting up the Foundation of Light and now supporting development of initiatives further afield, mirrors the Bidvest spirit of investing time and funds back into the markets we operate in.”
Sunderland has established itself as one of the most recognised English clubs across Africa in recent seasons thanks to its purchase of African internationals like Stephane Sessegnon, Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah and Ahmed Elmohamady, as well, of course, as its continued membership of the high-profile Premier League.
The pioneering union with Invest in Africa in January last year saw the club associated with a ground-breaking, not-for-profit initiative, to promote Africa as a leading investment destination.
That initiative further enhanced links with the continent which have only been built on with this latest agreement.
The deal will also bring more revenue into the club’s coffers, putting Sunderland on a more solid financial footing.