As Chelsea fans, that bold blue number 3 on our beloved jerseys has become a familiar sight over the past 3 seasons. But why does it adorn the front and center of our kits? What’s the story behind Chelsea’s connection with the logo of telecommunications company Three? I’ve done some digging into our club’s fascinating history and commercial growth to unravel why that magic number 3 is intrinsic to our success.
First, let’s go back to the roots of this great club. Chelsea Football Club was founded in 1905 at Stamford Bridge stadium, which remains our home. In those early days we existed in the shadow of bigger London clubs like Arsenal and Spurs. But fast forward to 2003, and the landscape changed forever when Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and ushered in an era of huge investment and success.
Under Abramovich’s ownership, Chelsea have become one of the biggest clubs in world football both on and off the pitch. We’ve won 6 Premier League titles, 8 FA Cups, 5 League Cups and 2 Champions Leagues among other trophies. Off the field, our global brand and commercial revenue have grown exponentially thanks to mega-money sponsorship deals.
Which brings us to the current Three sponsorship that began in 2020 and is worth a massive £40 million a year!
Blue is the Color…of Money from Sponsors!
To put that Three deal in context let’s look at some key numbers:
Chelsea’s previous shirt sponsor, Yokohama Tyres, paid £40 million annually from 2015-2020. Three came in with the same £40 million a year over 2020-2023.
Our current kit deal with Nike is worth £900 million over 15 years – that‘s £60 million a season through to 2032!
For a data analysis geek like me, it’s fascinating to crunch these numbers on Chelsea’s commercial growth. Our annual revenues have steadily increased over the past decade:
|Total Revenue (Euro millions)
Our club is clearly attractive to elite brands who want exposure and association with a winning tradition. But why does the 3 logo of Three make such a good match specifically?
Three for the Digital Age
As technology has become integral to how fans enjoy football, having Three as a partner aligns perfectly with Chelsea’s digitally-engaged global supporter base.
Whether we’re watching a live stream of a game, connecting with Chelsea communities on social media or browsing the club website and app, digital connectivity is now essential. 5G networks and fast mobile data provide the lifeblood of the modern fan experience. So for Three to enable that through their leading technology makes for a natural fit.
Looking at it commercially, Three seized on a great opportunity to get their branding in the spotlight when they signed up as principal shirt sponsor in 2020.
Some experts estimate Three have received over £500 million worth of exposure just from matchday broadcasts and digital visibility of the Chelsea shirt partnership over the past 3 seasons.
As a tech-focused analyst myself, I think they couldn’t have picked a better club than Chelsea to align with their digital communication strategy in football‘s new media age.
Trophies Galore for Three & Chelsea
The synergy between our success on the field and Three‘s business ambitions is clear when you consider what Chelsea have won during the sponsorship:
2021 Champions League Final defeat of Man City saw that big 3 logo front and center as we lifted old big ears in Porto!
Later in 2021 we were crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions in Abu Dhabi.
Our women’s team has also filled the trophy cabinet while Three has been our principal sponsor:
- FA Women‘s Super League Titles in 2020/21 and 2021/22
- FA Women‘s Cup in 2020/21
- FA Women‘s League Cup in 2020/21
No wonder Three are proud to be our shirt sponsors during the most successful period in Chelsea history. The exposure has been priceless.
Abramovich Sanctions Test Chelsea-Three Bond
However, off-field issues would test the strength of our sponsorship deal with Three in 2022. I’m talking of course about the UK government sanctions on Roman Abramovich which threw Chelsea‘s future into uncertainty.
With Abramovich’s assets frozen, Three were in a difficult position. They suspended our £40m a year shirt deal in March 2022 to protect their brand from potential backlash over links to Abramovich and Vladimir Putin‘s regime in Russia.
It was a complex situation that put pressure on our commercial deals. To Three‘s credit, once the sale of Chelsea to Todd Boehly‘s ownership consortium was completed in May 2022, normal service resumed on the 3 logo returning to our shirts.
The Abramovich saga gave a rare insight into the complexities of sports sponsorship deals and the brand sensitivity around ownership. But Chelsea and Three ultimately came through the crisis together.
What Makes Our Chelsea Shirt Truly Iconic
Looking back over Chelsea’s rich 117-year history, our royal blue home kit stands out as one of the most recognizable in football. But why has it become so iconic?
A few key components stand out:
The lion badge – taken from the coat of arms of Viscount Chelsea in 1905, lending a regal, heritage feel.
The staff – representing the Abbots of Westminster, giving ties to local history.
The yellow trim – a distinctive splash of contrast on the blue background. Often appears on away and third kits too.
The 3 logo – signifying our partnership with Three in the digital age.
As a lifelong Chelsea supporter, I feel a sense of pride when I see our players walk out in that true blue kit, with the 3 logo front and center. It represents our culture and tradition blended with modern commercial power.
Chelsea‘s Global Ambitions
Speaking of commercial power, Chelsea have our sights set on becoming the #1 club brand in world football. Abramovich may be gone but our ambitious ethos remains, which is why we’re such a magnet for sponsors.
Some key stats on our financial growth:
Annual revenues have grown from £175 million in 2004 to £443 million in 2019.
Chelsea spent over £110 million on Enzo Fernandez in January 2023 – a British transfer record.
We rank 8th globally in terms of annual club revenue according to Deloitte (2021).
To support these ambitions, Chelsea will need to continue securing lucrative sponsorship deals when Three‘s current deal expires in 2023.
Who knows, maybe one day a tech innovator like Tesla could be splashed across the front of our shirts! As an analyst, I think a pioneer like Elon Musk would be a great match for Chelsea‘s global, digital vision. We‘ll have to wait and see…
Stamford Bridge – Chelsea‘s Iconic Home
While we set our sights on dominating globally, Stamford Bridge remains at the heart of Chelsea‘s identity. Our home since 1905, the 41,000-capacity stadium is steeped in memories for blues fans.
As commercial revenue increases, there are plans proposed for a stadium expansion or even a brand new state-of-the-art arena. But Bridge will always be the spiritual home of Chelsea FC.
When our players walk down the tunnel, glancing at the silverware-lined walls, they carry the hopes and dreams of thousands of Chelsea loyalists in the stands. Under the floodlights with a sea of blue jerseys adorned by that big 3 logo, magic happens at The Bridge.
So whether you‘re watching in person with a match ticket tightly clutched, or streaming the action on a smartphone thousands of miles away, every fan is part of the Chelsea community. Together we stand behind the Blue flag with pride and passion.
That’s what the 3 symbolizes – unity, success and digital innovation. The future looks bright for Chelsea, and I can’t wait to see where our journey takes us next! Come on you Blues!