West London-based Chelsea Football Club is scouting for a partnership with an Indian corporate house. The club wants to use the platform to launch its soccer schools and float a franchise that would sell branded merchandise and mobile content, as well as run cafes and restaurants.
"We are looking at an anchor partner which has to be an Indian corporate house, which understands the Indian market and not a foreign MNC. It is through this route that we plan to enter India and set up our football schools and franchise our brand," said Ben Wells, head of marketing of the Chelsea Football Club.
Wells said the Indian partner would benefit by getting a global marketing platform through Chelsea to advertise its brand in the English Premier League, which is televised across the world.
"We do not sell advertising space on our jersey, except to companies with whom we are partners in developing the game. The Indian corporate house could get that opportunity."
Chelsea is also in talks with the US-based National Basketball Association (NBA) to jointly set up schools having facilitates for both football and basketball. "There is no clash between these two and as NBA is already in India, we are open to talks with them to build the infrastructure" said Wells.
When asked why Indian corporate houses would put their money in football in a cricket-crazy nation, Wells said: "Football is a global game, while cricket is not. So, if you want to address consumers in the US, south east Asia and Europe you cannot use cricket to reach these audiences."
Wells said Chelsea supports soccer schools by training coaches in the latest techniques in football as well as modules on health and nutrition. These schools would also have their own stadia and practice infrastructure and can charge commercial rates for the training that they provide. Wells said setting up coaching centres is the core to Chelsea's strategy in India.
The football club believes not too many have read the Indian market and feel it is a cricket market. "The changing demography has ensured there is a large population which is no longer interested in a five-day match but is looking at something of a short duration. The success of the IPL was an eye-opener. There is no reason why football with 90-minute duration will not be attractive to India."
Other football clubs, including Manchester United and Arsenal, had started making inroads in India a couple of years before. For instance, Manchester United has got three cafes and bars in Mumbai and New Delhi. United inked a five-year deal with Airtel in May 2009, through which its customers get exclusive content such as video clips of premiership matches and UEFA Champion's League highlights, downloads of mobile games, ringtones, animations, and wallpapers of popular Manchester United players.
In association with Nike and the All India Football Federation (AIFF), United had also conducted a tournament the Manchester United Premier Cup where kids under the age of 15 were called to show their skills.