Wayne Rooney is already a globally-recognised footballer but the Everton striker could be set for worldwide stardom of a different kind with his potential immortalisation in the Angry Birds online game franchise.
The club expect the new shirt-sleeve sponsorship deal with Rovio, the game’s developers, will produce both financial and exposure benefits to boost their profile to unprecedented levels.
One area could see Rooney appear in a Toffees’ spin-off version of the massively-popular online game.
Everton’s partnership with the Finnish company may have brought howls of derision from certain sections of the fanbase due to the game’s main character being a red bird – the colour of cross-city rivals Liverpool – but Press Association Sport understands in Premier League boardrooms up and down the country the club have been privately congratulated for securing such an innovative deal.
The club hope to boost their appeal in a different demographic in key growth markets, particularly the likes of China and the Far East, as Angry Birds has a global brand awareness third only to Disney and Lego, while Rovio are looking to capitalise on the immense global appeal of the Premier League.
“We have a history of doing Angry Bird homages of real-life characters so obviously now we are in collaboration (with Everton) we can work together to bring interesting characters and profiles into the games,” said Ville Heijari, Rovio Entertainment’s chief marketing officer told Press Association Sport.
“Potentially Wayne Rooney would be involved. It is not just enough that we reach mobile players; we want to reach sports fans, television spectators, so it is a big audience we are going after.”
Five versions of the Angry Birds game – which has had 3.7billion downloads since 2009, three billion YouTube views and has 25m Facebook followers – are in the top 100-grossing games on the Apple platform in the United States.
Everton hope a similar sort of exposure can do wonders for them with Rovio’s history of global collaborations including Apple, Sony, Fox, NASA and McDonald’s.
“For us this is a real plus in that we have been able to secure a brand of the level of Rovio with the level of brand awareness they have and the undoubted market-leading following they have,” said Everton’s head of commercial Alan McTavish.
“It (shirt sleeve sponsorship) has been a really competitive marketplace and there have been deals done across the league at different levels but we are confident we have done the best of them all.”
The deal is the latest in a string – from the training ground to a new shirt sponsor – which has brought in between £80million to £90million to the Toffees over the last two years, which is significant even in an era of huge television contracts and the arrival of billionaire owner Farhad Moshiri.
“The opportunity for us to generate as much money as possible to support what happens on the pitch is of absolutely paramount importance,” added McNish.
And so to the thorny issue of that red colour which, incidentally, does not feature on the shirt.
Heijari said: “Believe me it was controversial at our end too. Our main character is red, his name is Red and we were thinking ‘How do we make this work?’. I think we have our work cut out to win the hearts and minds of the fans with the character Red but I think he will be a big hit with the younger fans and from there we can try to win over everyone.”