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A Look Into Chelsea's Marketability

Almost two months ago, Chelsea signed a shirt sponsorship deal with British telecommunication giants “Three”, letting our previous deal...

Almost two months ago, Chelsea signed a shirt sponsorship deal with British telecommunication giants “Three”, letting our previous deal with Yokohama come to an end.

It’s been widely reported, but not spoken of enough, that the deal is worth the same amount per annum than the old deal, with only some minor performance-based potential bonuses to add. The ramifications of this are pretty big and haven’t been spoken of enough. Everything in the football market has inflated, including shirt sponsorship revenues for other teams.

Why has our shirt sponsorship revenue not increased then?

The answer to that is quite simple. Football may be a team sport, but players are behind the revenue. We live in an age where individual players have bigger followings than their teams, and in Eden Hazard, David Luiz, Cesc Fabregas & Alvara Morata, our team has lost it’s four most marketable players in the last two transfer windows. This has resulted in our commercial value decreasing because of it. 

Before the season began, Sky famously chose Barkley as the face of the club on their TV channel.

Chelsea’s downfall is abundantly clear when you look at our shirt sales statistics. In 2015-2016 we sold 3 million kits, more than United and Madrid and behind only Barcelona and Bayern (SkySports). However, this season we rank 5th in the league in sales, falling behind the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and even Arsenal (Love the Sales). Our commercial appeal is low, as each club in the traditional top 6 has at least a couple of players with a strong global appeal in their ranks, except for us. The only player in Chelsea’s squad who has a somewhat strong image is N’Golo Kante. Needless to say, to get back to our previous heights we need far more.

But what exactly makes a football player marketable?

- Winning - Nobody ever remembers who finished second at anything.

- Performing consistently

- Playing Position - (97% of all endorsements go to attackers

- Social media presence: With his 135 million followers, Neymar has more Instagram followers than FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Santos & the Selecao combined. Despite those crazy numbers, he’s still far below Cristiano Ronaldo who has the most followed account with over 200 million followers. Even though Instagram following numbers by themselves don’t show the whole picture and it overlooks important statistics like user engagement (where they don’t do as well), it is still a strong indicator of global awareness.

- Having a stronghold over a specific demographic: South-Korean businesses are willing to spend a lot for Heung-Min Son to be the face of their brand. This has paved the way for Spurs to get a multimillion deal with Kumho. Liverpool stands in a similar situation, where Salah has a strong presence in his homeland, which has brought in Egyptian club sponsors such as ALEXBANK.

- Physical appearance & Personality: Beckham was a great player in his day, but there’s little doubt his fame far exceeded his ability with the ball. Another such example is Zlatan, who gained a huge popularity due to his personality, and despite being 38 years old, is still one of the most marketable players in the world.

How does our squad fare?

It’s a bit of a tale of two stories, you can effectively put our players in two different groups: the young and the more experienced. Since Frank’s arrived we’ve been fielding the youngest Chelsea squads we’ve seen in a long time, and albeit they show great potential, their appeal to the global market’s is still low, simply because they haven’t yet had the chance to truly make a name for themselves. Your audience doesn’t grow overnight but rather with time as you perform well and succeed in different tournaments as you’ll see below.

As you can see in the first graph, Tammy’s audience has grown as he’s grown into the season. If you look at the second graph you’ll see the power goals have as we look at Norway’s Erling Braut Håland, note the spike on February 18th, which is the date they played PSG and he scored two. His following the next day grew by 624.000, which is an increase of 30% overnight, clearly showing that the big nights in the Champions League are extremely influential.

The experienced players:

There are of course some players in our squad who have been at the top level for a while, such as Kante, Kovacic, Jorginho, Azpilicueta, Giroud, Pedro & Willian, but amongst these only Kante, Azpilicueta and Pedro have been the driving forces behind successful teams. Kante, Jorginho & Kovacic still have some years to go but the latter four are in the twilight of their careers and their days under the spotlight are numbered, which makes the growth of their “brand’ highly unlikely.

The only player in Chelsea’s squad who has a pretty strong image is N’Golo Kante, but his humble nature keeps him away from the limelight. The only player brought in that has the potential to have a strong global image is Christian Pulisic, who could potentially have a massive presence on the North American market.

Chelsea already has some players with the potential to grow a strong image in Ruben Loftus-Cheek & Christian Pulisic and to a slightly less degree Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount & Hudson-Odoi. 

How can Chelsea get back to the top?

Well obviously success over time is what we should aim for, as it raises every individual’s profile as well as the team’s, but there are ways to raise our profile for now or do so further in the future. 

Buying marketable players:

The players Chelsea will bring in in the summer transfer window will be part of our image for years to come so it’s important to choose wisely. Obviously, by this, I don’t mean make your transfer decision based on who has the most followers. However, due to our current stance, I think we should if the opportunity presents itself, to put it in the list of pros of a potential transfer as we are seriously lacking there.

As an example, we could look at two of the left-backs that we are rumoured to be interested in Alex Telles & David Alaba. For the sake of the argument let’s say they possess the exact same quality. If we were to compare how they do by the previously mentioned traits and qualities of a marketable player, Alaba would come out on top. David has won the Bundesliga 8 times, he also has 79 appearances in the Champions League, which he won in 12-13. On the other hand, Telles has 38 appearances, never going further than the quarter-final, and won the Portuguese and Turkish leagues once. Alaba is also the most famous footballer in his home country of Austria, as a result, he has become the face of Bank Austria.

(Alaba in a commercial for Austria Bank)

Again I’m not saying we should go with Alaba because of this, but we should take into consideration what he brings in that regard. Invest in players who can help Chelsea grow in key markets.

As previously mentioned, Pulisic is a good example of this, I truly believe he’s going to be our golden ticket to the North American market, Chelsea has also invested more than others in their women’s team which is very likely to be well worth the time and money. But there are others we could do better in such as Central America & Asia. A truly baffling statistic is that Chelsea is the only top 6 team that’s never had any Asian player. The power of China alone is immense, in 2003, 365 million Chinese viewers came together to watch a Premier League game. It wasn’t Chelsea vs United or Arsenal vs Liverpool or any crucial game, it was Everton playing Manchester City live on TV. Lie Tie was in the Everton line-up, Manchester City fielded Sun Jihai, the rest is history (Managing Sport Business, 2003). China is just one of the markets where he can expand aggressively, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand & India amongst others are all countries we do well in, but where we could easily develop further, you can bet that winter Liverpool was thinking the same when they purchased Minamino for example.

All in all, I am confident that with Lampard as a coach, trophies will come and that will result in trophies, which in turn will bring us back to the golden days, but to increase our commercial income in the meantime, we will have to be smart in the next few transfer markets.

Written by - @UBERPWNG

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