Chelsea ride the (wave) as it strikes shirt deal with Three


Chelsea FC and Three 5G Image: Chelsea FC / Three 5G

The British telecommunications and Internet service provider – Three UK – has struck a three-year deal with the English professional football club – Chelsea F.C. – based at Fulham in London.

Telecom giant Three will take over as the official shirt sponsor from the beginning of the 2020-21 football seasons. The deal will bring to an end after this season five very successful years with Japanese company Yokohama Tyres as Chelsea’s official shirt partner.

As part of the pact, Three will make sure that the Blues’ home ground – Stamford Bridge Stadium in Fulham, London – is 5G-enabled before the end of this year. The tie-up also includes an option to extend beyond the contract’s initial period.

It is learnt that the deal is worth about £40m (€47.3m/$52m) per season over three years, from 2020-21 to 2022-23.

The Principal Partner deal was made by the club’s Commercial Department, led by its Commercial Director Chris Townsend.

Townsend formerly held the post of Commercial Director of the London 2012 Organising Committee, and Chief Executive of Broadband Delivery UK, and is said to enjoy considerable clout in the telco industry. Credit for the deal, however, has been shared with the entire Commercial Department.

The sourcing of a new shirt sponsor to replace Yokohama Tyres has been a long-winded exercise for the club. UK-headquartered global integrated marketing and brand experience agency – CSM Sport & Entertainment agency – was officially kept back on the payroll of Chelsea in March 2018 to hunt for global partners – and potentially help the club find a replacement for Yokohama. The club took the nod from the Japanese tire brand to speak to potential replacements last year.

CSM worked overtime with the Chelsea commercial team to run the entire exercise to find a new Principal Partner, which led to multiple offers being received by the club. CSM continues to be on the rolls of the club in the capacity as its agency on various partnership projects.

The deal caught few observers unawares who were expecting an emerging brand, possibly from Asia, seeking greater global awareness to take over for Yokohama, which had achieved just that.

Pure media value is not the overwhelming goal of Three if one is to go by the technology character of the agreement, a factor which may have limited the rights fees in the range of Yokohama’s maximum level of £40m-per-season.

Explains Guy Laurence, Chief Executive, Chelsea, “The network operator will also bring benefits to the club beyond just cash.”

Laurence added, “We have a social media following of over 100 million and the official app, The 5th Stand, has had nearly four million downloads. We stream live women’s and Academy football with men’s first team highlights available soon after matches.”

The head honcho added, “It truly is an area from which regular fans are benefiting and as communications technology develops in the coming years, Three will be at the forefront of the advances with the exciting roll-out of 5G networks, helping to enhance and expand the experience of being a Chelsea supporter in the modern digital age.”

Chelsea has a tradition of partnering with communications and tech firms, with Samsung being its main shirt sponsor for a decade, starting in 2005. Now it’s Three’s turn.

“Mobile technology has revolutionized the way football clubs and supporters interact with each other which make Chelsea FC and Three such natural partners,” maintained Laurence.

“With Three, we have found a partner, who share our passion for innovation and we are delighted to have them on board and on our shirts,” the top official asserted.

Three will set in motion its 5G mobile service in UK in the coming months, with a 5G Internet service already at hand in few areas of London.

The Three logo will be displayed on the front of all Chelsea shirts – both the men’s and women’s teams – right down to the academy level. The telecom firm will also enjoy prominent positioning across all of Chelsea’s physical and digital assets.

What is the fee which Three has paid Chelsea is still not known. Current shirt sponsor Yokohama will continue the great relationship it enjoys with the club as its tire partner – a lower category partnership.

However, Chelsea’s contract with Three is being described as financially “significant” for the former. Media reports stated that it is “comparable” to the expiring UK£40 million (US$52.5 million) a year deal with Yokohama. If one is to go by it, it would ensure Chelsea is at par with Liverpool and Arsenal in terms of shirt sponsorship revenue, joint third highest in the Premier League.

Currently, Manchester City earn UK£45 million (US$59.1 million) per year from Etihad, while Manchester United remain leagues ahead with their drop-in-a-swoon deal with Chevrolet, which is worth UK£64 million (US$84.1 million) per season.

Dave Dyson, Three Chief Executive, remarked, “Chelsea FC is a great match for Three – we share the same values and are both playing to win. This partnership is a great way to kick off 2020, when we are building UK’s fastest 5G network and Chelsea is building the best team.”

Chelsea FC is many teams in one club – and it is important to us that this sponsorship covers not only the men’s team, but also the women’s and the academy as well. Three UK has enough 5G spectrum to put us in the top 10 holdings in the world and give our customers the very best 5G service, and we want to be with the team that can drive that winning message over the next few years,” Dyson further averred.

A statement in Chelsea’s website read, “Three has long been the magic number for football fans everywhere, with three points the reward for success whenever a team takes to the field in a league or group-stage game, and for Chelsea supporters the number now has extra significance with connectivity company Three to be our new official shirt partner starting next season.”

The statement further read, “The partnership brings together a Premier League football club and a premium brand in connectivity, with both aiming to build towards headline-grabbing success in 2020. It is, appropriately, for three years initially with Three’s logo to appear on all of Chelsea’s shirts from 2020-21, including Chelsea Women and Academy sides as well as our men’s team. The partnership covers the whole Chelsea family.”

“The deal is a significant one for Chelsea financially but it is also important our official partnerships are a good fit and our new shirt one with Three clearly is.”

The statement concluded, “The new decade is lined up to be a major one for Chelsea and Three and the parallels are clear, with Chelsea aiming to re-establish ourselves as the leaders with a significant contribution from
home-grown talent, and Three a premier UK company with an established name and plenty of achievements behind them, but who are now looking at a bright new future with exciting times ahead.”

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