The Secret Marketer

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

Chelsea Football Club reacted with anger and incredulity last week after they were banned from signing any new players until January 2011. The damning punishment was delivered by Fifa, which found Chelsea guilty of “tapping up” a player under contract to another club. The scale of the punishment is unprecedented and the manner in which it was delivered – by fax – was equally stunning. I can’t remember the last time I got a fax about anything important.

Chelsea are certain to appeal against the decision, but for now we should enjoy the prospect of one of the world’s biggest spending clubs losing their wallet. For those marketers out there working on mega-brands, just imagine losing your entire marketing budget for 16 months. How on earth would you cope? It raises questions about the role of today’s marketing director or football manager. The job titles imply a holistic approach, whereas in practice most of their time is involved in spending on new things, whether that is signing new players or the creation of new advertising campaigns. This is supported by an ever more elaborate backroom team of agencies, psychologists, scouts and researchers, all taking their cut of the spending merry-go-round.

Much has been written about how small, challenger brands are able to outperform their bigger spending, more established cousins. Without huge resources, you wouldn’t be so busy running agency pitches and signing off numerous iterations of creative work as you wouldn’t have the money to pay for such extravagances in the first place. As scary as it sounds, you might have a bit of time on your hands to consider those aspects of your brand you could improve at little or no cost. A similar challenge now awaits Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, who will be spending less time courting agents and more time on coaching.

For what it is worth, I predict that Chelsea may benefit greatly from this involuntary period of abstinence, discovering a renewed focus, team spirit and far greater returns from their existing assets. If my predictions are true, the halcyon days of spending at Stamford Bridge may well be over and the Fifa punishment may be the best piece of strategic consultancy they could have wished for.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here