MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United has announced a new three-year sponsorship deal with Chinese soft-drinks manufacturer Wahaha.

The deal could help the English Premier League giant expand its appeal in a country where it is thought to have millions of fans.

The company has been China's largest beverage producer for the past 11 years and becomes United's first official soft drink partner.

United commercial director Richard Arnold described the sponsorship as the "first ... of its kind in China," adding "we are delighted to be able to work with a company which, like Manchester United, is dedicated to innovation and leadership in its field."

United has fostered a strong fan base in China in recent years, visiting the country 11 times to play exhibitions since 1975.

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