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Chelsea trials short-term brand partnerships to win influencer and publisher spend


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

January 21, 2020 | 7 min read

Chelsea FC is the first English Premier League club to introduce a short-term brand partnership product, which it hopes will bite into budgets currently allocated to influencer marketing and publisher partnerships.


Chelsea FC unveils short-term partnership model to compete with influencers and publishers

The club is offering access to its top players, in-house production assets and distribution channels to brands keen to make an impact without the cost and commitment of a long-term deal.

Multi-year contracts are currently favoured in football and while there is still a place for these top-tier packages that deliver long-term brand alignment, the club's top marketer believes his new model can attract new spend from agile marketing departments with lower budgets than the Premier League's going rate.

The London-based football club believes the opportunity has "gone begging" to date, according to Gary Twelvetree who leads marketing at the club.

He has built the sponsorship products he would have wanted from sports organisations in his previous roles, handling marketing for the Barclays, which was aligned with the Premier League for years, and Visa during the World Cup and Olympics.

Twelvetree is offering up Chelsea's players, platforms and power, once reserved for top tier partners, to a new slate of brands. Videos are conceived and produced in-house before being distributed across its owned channels and ad inventory in digital, social and in-stadium.

Duracell was the first brand to embrace this "end-to-end solution". It ran tests in December, coinciding with Amazon’s festive football coverage digital coverage. Two Circles helped deliver on a partnership bartered by HK Strategies.

Premier League stars Mason Mount, Michy Batshuayi and Callum Hudson-Odoi fronted the video. In a simple gym scene, Hudson-Odoi talked up his Duracell battery charger as he watched highlights of his top goals, much to the amusement of his teammates. The video ran on Facebook and Instagram where it has mustered a few million views across Duracell and Chelsea accounts (more than 200m followers), in addition to shares from fans and the starring players.

The spots also ran on the clubs website and app (more than four million downloads) in display and pre-roll formats.

Duracell has since reported “significant uplift” in Power Bank sales during that week-long campaign. Twelvetree said the campaign “over-achieved” as social video views reached over 2m and social engagement was 28% above the target.

Chris Townsend, commercial director at Chelsea FC, noted that the product is a keen way to quickly activate around "new campaigns and at peak sales moments”. Chelsea also performed a brand study to ensure the campaign hit the KPIs required by the top marketers, a rigour which may be lacking at rival clubs.

Twelvetree believes that Chelsea is the "only club in the market thinking differently about partnerships". It hopes to attract money spent in influencing, branded content and with other publishers.

"Although it's early days, the response we're getting in the market is exceptionally positive. We have got more brands lined up that are going to work with us in the next month or two.

He concluded: "It is an ideal time to offer this, maybe it hasn’t been done in the past due to the type of people who have held marketing roles at clubs. Now clubs have to generate revenue every way they can. To be winners on the pitch, we have to be winners off the pitch."

Tatiana Wijeyaratne, marketing manager at Duracell UK told Sports Business: “Live streaming is one of the biggest drains on the battery life of mobile devices.” The clever placement in the mobile-first channels during Christmas appears to have paid off.

Going forward, however, Chelsea will have to ensure there are no conflicts with its top tier partners.

On the other hand, this package lets it meet a whole host of new brands, granting the club a short-term financial advantage and even chance to upsell partners into longer-lived deals down the line.

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