Chelsea ‘in talks’ with new suitors as Yokohama deal enters final year

Premier League club Chelsea has reportedly opened talks with potential new main shirt sponsors as the incumbent Yokohama Rubber deliberates on whether to renew after this season.

According to The Athletic sports website, Chelsea has tested the market “with Yokohama’s knowledge and understanding” so that the club has options should the Japanese tyre company decide not to renew after the 2019-20 season. 

The club was reportedly in talks with Yokohama during the summer when Chelsea went on a pre-season tour to Japan, which included a game in Yokohama itself. While talks are ongoing, The Athletic has also been shown “evidence of communication between the club and one unnamed company”.

Chelsea’s five-year deal with the Yokohama is worth a maximum of £40m ($49.1m/€44.5m) per year, from 2015-16 to 2019-20. SportBusiness Sponsorship understands that the £40m figure is only reached after a number of clauses are enacted. 

These primarily consist of clauses related  to bonus payments for winning domestic and European trophies, worth up to £5m per year, and extras worth up to £3m per year related to shirt sales, pre-season tour commitments to Japan and player commitments.

Along with the shirt rights, the deal has given Yokohama a dominant branding presence on LED signage within Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium. However, sponsorship experts consider that the sponsorship was not strongly activated with fans during the first four years. This summer’s tour to Japan was also Chelsea’s first under the deal.

Read this: European Football Sponsorship Report 2018-19: Premier League

Since the Yokohama deal, three of the top six clubs have signed shirt deals worth about £40m per year: Liverpool with Standard Chartered, from 2019-20 to 2022-23,  Arsenal with Emirates, from 2019-20 to 2023-24, and Tottenham Hotspur with AIA, from 2091-20 to 2026-27.

Manchester United’s deal with Chevrolet, signed in 2012, is worth £53m per year, from 2014-15 to 2020-21.