Profile: Tomorrow, the world - Paul Smith, Group business affairs director, Chelsea Football Club

For a man who has just clinched the biggest sponsorship deal in English football history and whose team has just been crowned Premiership champions, Paul Smith, Chelsea Football Club's group business affairs director and marketing supremo, does not seem too overwhelmed.

Following weeks of frenzied negotiation and intense press speculation, the West London club finally confirmed its £50m sponsorship deal with Korean electronics firm Samsung last week.

The five-year agreement, which sees Samsung replace Emirates as club sponsor from June, is a vital part of Chelsea's plan to become the world's biggest club.

Smith has been handed a similar brief to the club's charismatic manager, Jose Mourinho, as Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich and chief executive Peter Kenyon have asked him to put the club on an equal footing with rivals Real Madrid and Manchester United within 10 years.

But Smith appears a polar opposite to Mourinho, preferring to be more measured and businesslike than egotistical or flamboyant. However, while his quietly spoken manner make his credentials as a brand architect seem unlikely, his CV speaks for itself. He started his career more than 30 years ago in advertising, moving on to sports marketing, which catapulted him into the football club arena and his lofty position at Chelsea.

Despite Abramovich's apparently bottomless pockets, Smith concedes he faces challenges. Until this year, Chelsea had not won the league for 50 and, until the Russian bought the club in 2003, was often regarded as an also-ran.

Smith, who is described by his peers as 'Mr Football', arrived at Chelsea from Manchester United two years ago, following Abramovich's takeover.

His move may have surprised some, not least because he was then a Tottenham Hotspur fan. It certainly surprised him. 'I thought I'd end up at a Federation,' he says.

Smith, who now claims to be a die-hard Chelsea fan, learned his trade at sports marketing giants ISL and IMG. Having worked with Kenyon at Manchester United as a management consultant, Smith effectively became his eyes and ears at Chelsea, acting as interim chief executive while Kenyon was on gardening leave waiting to take up the role.

As well as the recent sponsorship deal, Smith has revamped the club badge to coincide with its centenary year, dropping the CFC moniker. He is also planning to launch an international membership scheme later this summer.

Not surprisingly, building Chelsea's overseas presence is a major part of the club's ambitions to become a global football brand, with the focus on China, Russia and the US.

Smith aims to achieve this not only by rolling out the membership programme and translating the club magazine and website into different languages, but through club tours and other tie-ups. The first of these tours will be to the US, where the club will play exhibition matches and host kids' soccer schools.

The marketing focus is not just on building a global profile, however.

Compared with the global footprint of Manchester United, Chelsea's fanbase is, in the main, limited to London and the home counties. Smith says he is equally concerned about domestic fans and is keen to broaden the club's profile.

Initiatives intended to achieve this include reserving some areas of the stadium for non-season ticket holders.

With Chelsea adding the Premiership title to its Carling Cup triumph this year, and a potential Champions League final to come, Smith says the brand is going from strength to strength.

However, experience tells him football can be a fair-weather business, and keeping the fans hooked in the long term is critical to building a global profile. 'What we are doing now is all about the long-term future of the club,' he says.

Many marketers may envy Smith. However, they will be disappointed to learn he has no plans to move on until the club has achieved its goals.

Doing so, says Smith, will take time. 'So far we have only the ingredients of a global brand', he says. 'There is a long, long way to go,'


1974-1976 Research executive, Y&R London

1976-1978 Account executive, Euro Advertising

1980-1983 Account manager, BBDO London

1983-1991 Vice-president marketing, ISL Marketing, Switzerland

1991-1993 Partner, Academy, London

1993-1999 International vice-president/head of football, IMG London

1999-2001 Chief executive, Sportal Asia

2001-2003 Managing director, Code Red (Manchester United)

2003-present Group business affairs director, Chelsea Football Club

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