Infinite Athlete’s Infinitely Interesting Chelsea Partnership

August 14, 2023 Infinite Athlete’s Infinitely Interesting Chelsea Partnership

Top English Premier League club Chelsea F.C. was unable to reveal a new shirt sponsor in time for its season opening match versus Liverpool this past weekend, but it appears the team is close to a deal with San Francisco-based sports technology provider Infinite Athlete.

The agreement is reported to be for 40 million GBP, or about $51 million a year—the same price that its former sponsor, telecommunications firm Three, paid before its sponsorship expired in May. While the length of the contract has not been revealed, a source close to the club told me it is for one year only.

From a sales perspective, the deal appears to be a small victory for Chelsea, maintaining revenue while buying another year to find a longer-term arrangement after two proposed partnerships were rebuffed (Paramount+ by the league due to the conflict with broadcast partners and online betting operation Stake by fans opposed to gambling partners).

The two parties were well acquainted, with Tempus Ex Machina (which changed its name two weeks ago to Infinite Athlete following its acquisition of athlete safety engineering firm Biocore) agreeing to a seven-year deal in April to provide Chelsea with a host of services centered on using its video and data-synching technology for fan engagement, digital content development, player performance and analytics.

According to Sports Business Journal, “the first fan-facing element was the recent rollout of the AI-powered Match View X, which gave fans using the official club app a bespoke streaming experience by choosing statistical and graphical overlays, player tracking data and more.”

Turning to a supplier as a prospective partner is a long-established practice in sponsorship sales, although not typically for a top-level position such as shirt sponsor. That is often because vendors, especially tech and infrastructure suppliers, don’t usually have the budgets to afford a property’s highest priced packages.

Which brings us to the question of whether this is a good deal for Infinite Athlete.

Of course, answering that question definitively is impossible without knowing more specifics about the deal and having a deeper understanding of the company’s finances, plans and operations. But on its face, a $51 million expenditure for a start-up—even one that completed a Series B funding round led by Silver Lake and Endeavor in September 2021 and is as promising as Infinite Athlete clearly is—must raise more than a few eyebrows.

SBJ reports that the goal of the “expanded agreement is to reach a broader audience, inclusive of other fans who may ask that their favorite clubs provide the same experience.”

While the shirt sponsorship clearly will raise brand awareness among soccer and other sports fans—something Infinite Athlete clearly needs to do—that same $51 million spent on advertising and marketing carrying a direct message about what the company’s tech offers fans would seem to be a more targeted and effective way to elicit the consumer behavior the company is looking for.

It will be very interesting to see where the sponsorship and Infinite Athlete’s new business numbers are a year from now.