H&K to handle Chelsea Football Club's US effort

CHICAGO: English soccer juggernaut Chelsea Football Club has hired Hill & Knowlton as its US communications consultancy.

CHICAGO: English soccer juggernaut Chelsea Football Club has hired Hill & Knowlton as its US communications consultancy.

Among its duties, the firm will handle promotion and publicity surrounding Chelsea's US tour. The team will play Major League Soccer's best players in an all-star game August 5 in Chicago and will also stop at a training session in Los Angeles.

Patrick Sandusky, a VP in H&K's sports practice, will run the account out of its Chicago office. Media relations will factor heavily in the outreach.

While the immediate focus is on the aforementioned tour, Sandusky said the agency would help Chelsea maintain a permanent presence in the US.

"They're looking at a long-term commitment in the US and will continue to build their profile here," Sandusky said.

After years of being an also-ran, Chelsea now boasts the last two English Premiership titles and a roster of world-class talent. Its 2006-2007 squad has more 2006 World Cup players than any other professional team in the world.

Chelsea competitor Manchester United has also made many inroads in the US, starting when popular midfielder David Beckham was still on the team. It signed a joint marketing deal in 2001 with the New York Yankees, reportedly worth billions of pounds, whereby the teams would share market information and engage in joint promotional programs.

"There is ample opportunity for more than two Premiership teams," Sandusky said.

Premiership soccer tours in the US have been hit or miss, depending on the talent. Some teams have left their stars at home for US exhibition games. But Chelsea is committed to bringing its full squad.

"For the US soccer fan, this is a great opportunity to see the best of the best," Sandusky said.

Chelsea has already decided that the team will be coming to the US again next year.

"Over the long term, their outreach will continue to grow and we'll work with them on a number of initiatives," Sandusky said.

H&K clients recommended the firm to Chelsea. H&K beat out other undisclosed agencies in a competitive bid. Billings on the account are undisclosed.

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