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Making Friends; Building Partnerships

Robert Elstone, 19th July 2012 - 17:59

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Robert Elstone

Robert Elstone

Posts: 38

Robert is Everton's Chief Executive.

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The long queues at check-in gave it away. That ‘crack of dawn’ alarm call and the taxi across Bangkok were in vain. The in-bound flight had been re-routed for a passenger ‘taken-ill’ and my trip home was in tatters. Changing airlines and the last flight home isn’t what I wanted but with a few hours spare in Bangkok airport, there’s no excuse for not writing that well overdue blog. Here we go.

The schedule on my whirlwind trip to Thailand, not much more than 36 hours all-in, provides some of the most enjoyable parts of my job. Firstly, the Thais are great hosts and Chang in particular do everything to look after us in great style. It is easy to see that they really value their relationship with the Club. Secondly, we invariably get to see, as we visit the community work undertaken by Chang, how lucky we are in terms of our lifestyles and opportunities. The country and the City of Bangkok have had some tough times and I’m proud to say Everton has stepped up to the plate on several occasions.

The Power of Thai

Yesterday morning I visited a community devastated by last year’s flood. A school and a community that remained underwater for more than two months; almost impossible to imagine. A water mark surrounding the classrooms remains as a permanent reminder. It also fixes the mind on the impending rainy season, the main reason why they’re working frantically on a couple of the classrooms that now perch on top of temporary stilts some four metres above ground.

We took with us two huge holdalls full of pens, calculators and school sets. We also took stuff the children were a bit more keen on – training kit and footballs, and they wasted no time ditching their uniforms, picking up the balls and showing us their skills. Sadly, we didn’t always get the sizes right but I know they will take some prising off the backs of the young children. We were welcomed, fed, entertained and thanked profusely – generally treated like royalty, but it was me doing all the ‘thank yous’ – on behalf of the Club – for the chance to show what we’re all about. The People’s Club has no boundaries. I felt very lucky to be able to do that on the Club’s behalf; on your behalf. It feels so good when people really appreciate even the most modest gifts and the minimal amount of time.

The theme of the trip from a Chang perspective was ‘a world class partnership’ and the point was made that over the course of our eight year relationship, we have gone way beyond the traditional sponsorship model. From raising £100,000 for the reconstruction of school pitches at the Everton village, to developing an Academy in Bangkok which, led by Ray Hall, has now produced five Thai internationals, we’ve done work that we should all be very proud of. One of the successes of the initiative for the flood relief efforts, promoted at our game against Norwich City last season, was there for all to see. I was delighted to give a speech at a dinner last night to key Chang guests on the successes of the Premier League. It also gave me the chance to hand over a cheque for £20,000 raised by the Club with your support for ‘Power of Thai’ initiatives like the school.

Commercial Success

Over recent years, Everton has secured some great partnerships and we should be proud of a portfolio that now includes some great international brands and excellent businesses.

Chang has just completed its eighth season, set to reach 10 years at the end of this term and the longest running shirt sponsorship deal in the Premier League. The value to Everton is significant. In commercial terms, comparable values are very hard to find, but we’re confident it’s in the top seven or eight deals in the Premier League. In terms of a platform to bring our values to life – I don’t think we could find a partner better.

Of course, we’re also delighted to welcome Nike into the family and we know the vast majority of you really like the new 2012/13 kits; our sales figures back that up. Nike invest a significant sum into the Club on a range of marketing rights but the trading aspect of the deal is tied in with our partnership with Kitbag who, as you know, have pledged the Club a substantial sum over a 10-year period. The commercial aspect to the Kitbag deal is vitally important to the Club but it’s not the only part of the deal that benefits us. Retailing is pretty tough for everyone at the minute and historically Everton, like many football clubs, didn’t do it well, especially when times were tough.  Kitbag takes away all that risk.  Not only do they pay us a cheque every year that we couldn’t hope to emulate ourselves, they manage premises, warehousing, staff, stock, ordering and the supply chain; all the things that football clubs and indeed some specialist retailers struggle with. In my view, Kitbag has also transformed our retail offer and manage two modern, well-presented (and in the case of Everton Two, substantially refurbished) stores and a great website. A retail set up we should be proud of. A retail partnership that I know many clubs are envious of.

Internationally, we’ve also had some big commercial successes and like Chang, they demonstrate the Club’s appeal extends around the world. Pre-season is a challenging time for many clubs with fewer and fewer teams able to command substantial monies from overseas trips. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to buck that trend. A seven figure trip to Australia two years ago is being followed this summer with a deal approaching £1m for our participation in the inaugural Java Cup. In addition, many of my colleagues have spent a large part of the past three months in China, supported by Marouane Fellaini and a number of Everton legends, developing a talent-search project. Again Everton is leading the way, selected ahead of all other European clubs to work in close cooperation with a number of organisations. Our involvement will not only give the Club a great platform in China but will also earn us more than £500,000.

In the next few days we’ll be announcing the latest addition to our expanding partnership portfolio of well-recognised brands that already includes Thomas Cook, Paddy Power, Crabbie’s and the Britannia Building Society. We’ve just signed another great deal – high value and a household name – that we’ll tell you about next week.  I hope also to give you an update on season ticket sales and sales figures from the two, well-received, kit launches.

Finishing off where I started, our view has always been that success is founded on genuine partnerships, strong networks and hard work. The Club’s achievements on the commercial front, demonstrate the value of that approach.  We’re pushing the boundaries of sponsorship with our work in Thailand and that hard work, and that commitment to deliver means we stand out from some of our competitors and continue to perform to a high standard. Now let’s hope there are a couple of good films on this flight and maybe a bottle of Chang.

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