The Champions League semi final clash between Chelsea and Real Madrid -- delicately poised at 1-1 after the first leg this week -- also features another showdown off the pitch, between Thai beer Singha and Spain’s own Mahou, the two clubs’ beverage sponsors.

Singha, one of Thailand’s most popular beers, is hoping its ties with the Blues can help it break into the lucrative market of 1,600 Thai restaurants in the UK -- including 600 in London, where Chelsea play -- while Mahou has been tied to the Madrid team since the 1940s.

"We want to elevate the Singha brand to global recognition," Virun Phattaramanuskul, manager of the marketing department of Boonrawd Trading Group, producer of Singha among other beverages, tells Efe.

The Singha representative explains that England is an outstanding market for the brand due to the huge number of Thai restaurants.

Thai tycoons such as former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, former owner of Manchester City between 2007 and 2008, or the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, owner of 2015 Premier League champions Leicester, have seen the English championship as the perfect launching pad to promote their companies.

Other Thai companies such as Chang beer or King Power stores also sponsor other Premier League teams and even the hypertonic drink Carabao has put its name to the League Cup.

Singha, which has signed a deal with the London team until 2022, has also previously sponsored other teams such as Manchester united and Leicester; and the parent company has agreements with dozens of local teams under a carbonated water brand, to avoid the Thai veto on alcoholic beverage advertising.

On the other side of the contest is Mahou, part of Spain’s leading brewing group, Mahou San Miguel, a company with more than 1.25 billion euros of annual turnover, as well as some of the best-known brands on the Spanish market.

Mahou is one of Real Madrid's oldest collaborators. Their relationship dates back to the 1940s, when the brand took over the management of the bar at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

"Later, in the 1980s, the advertising relationship and image partnership was made official, culminating in 2001 with the first sponsorship contract as it is known today," Mahou San Miguel's general marketing director, César Hernández, explained to EFE.

The relationship between the club and the beer brand has evolved over the years. "Maintaining a relationship of so many years with a club of the stature of Real Madrid gives you notoriety and credibility over time," explains Hernandez, who says that "it is difficult to understand Mahou without soccer and Real Madrid".

Having an ally like Real Madrid is a significant international boost for a group that distributes 70% of Spanish beer drunk outside Spain.

"Real Madrid is a very important club and having a sponsorship with a team of this magnitude gives you many options: on an international level it is an excellent letter of introduction to new markets that helps you in terms of awareness and notoriety," Hernández concludes. EFE

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