What or who the hell is Animalates?

When I interview people for a job its not uncommon to receive a CV from someone running their own business. It always seems slightly peculiar that a full-fledged entrepreneurial business owner wants to give it all up to work for the moderate salary that is on offer from a wage slave like me. That is, until you start to investigate the nature of the business they run. They tend to be start-ups, usually franchisees; taking all the risk selling a product that they don’t own. They work themselves into the ground to cream off a tiny percentage of a tiny profit. The comfort of a moderate, but regular, salary becomes increasingly attractive.

For those perplexed by the name that has become synonymous with Oxford United in the last couple of days, this appears to be what our new shirt sponsor, Animalates, is. The response to its announcement yesterday was almost universally negative. The logo clashes horribly with our new goldy coloured shirts, it certainly doesn’t go well with Dave Kitson’s hair. Above all it just seems so naff. It’s registered address sounds impressive; 140 Buckingham Palace Road in London, but that seems almost certainly to be the address of their accountants – Magus. Google returns about 3,000, mostly Australian, results when you put the word in. The Animalates Twitter feed has no less than 35 followers, approximately 5% the number I have.

So, yes, it doesn’t go with a club like us. The counter argument is simple; a sponsor is a sponsor and the money is absolutely essential. That’s true; a sponsor isn’t aesthetic, it’s commercial.

But if you read the press release carefully, things aren’t quite what they seem. For one this is one of Ian Lenagan’s companies and it talks of ‘probably providing £50k of value’. Ah, value, a thing that is as important as money but is not actually money. It would appear that no money will exchange hands in this deal. Beyond offering the players a new way of making training fun, it seems unlikely that Animalates will be actually offer the club much at all. On the other hand; Animalates are about to get a stack of free publicity. So the £50k of value is almost all one way.

The whole sponsorship thing has been handled disastrously from the outset. Bridle stepping away was fair enough, but the club singularly failed to land a replacement. The club introduce an ‘innovative prize draw’. But the minimum number of entries isn’t received so the club change the rules. Isinglass becomes our as our new away shirt sponsor; this is a two man consultancy that has no website and chooses a pretty Cotswold cottage as its base. Incidentally, did you know that insinglass is a substance found from the dried swim bladders of a fish? Nice.

With the home shirt draw abandoned, this raised fanciful hopes that someone big had come in. BMW? Virgin? Of course not, then the new shirt appeared sans sponsor with the promise of a new ‘vibrant’ name being announced the following week. Why? Why announce the blank new shirt only a week in advance of the sponsor being announced?

That announcement didn’t happen; it eventually came about 2 weeks later and it was … Animalates. A sponsorship involving no cash.

All of which is a right balls up, and indicative of the woeful state that the commercial part of the club is in. I’ve said before, I trust Ian Lenagan with the club and perhaps it was the sponsorship debacle that drove him to reorganise the backroom commercial team. That was announced last week and, let’s face it, they couldn’t make it any worse, could they?

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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