Profile: Tomorrow, the World - Paul Smith, Group Business Affairs Director, Chelsea Football Club

Marketing, May 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

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 pounds 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. …

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