It's been talked about so much that it almost seems like the day and time will never come, but we all know how financially-significant the year 2014 is to the club. Arsenal lag behind other clubs - many with lesser pedigrees and success - in their primary sponsorship deals which have seen them remain stagnant in their attempts to further expand their commercial revenues. The club has slowly started to scoop up talent with successful backgrounds in growing their industries globally and, yesterday, the club announced another strategic hire that could foretell how the club's going to move forward when their Nike sponsorship agreement ends in 2014.
FC Business reported yesterday that Simon Lilley has been made the club’s new Head of Retail; a position he’ll take up next month. Having garnered ten years experience working for Adidas, he’s more recently worked for UEFA, where he consolidated Adidas’ position as a global sponsor, and for LOCOG, for whom he was Head of Licensing and Retail – a position which again saw him strengthen Olympic ties with the "The Brand with 3 Stripes."
It remains to be seen how exactly Lilley influences Arsenal’s retail arm, although Chief Commercial Officer Tom Fox spoke warmly about the new man.
"We are absolutely thrilled that Simon has decided to join Arsenal. His track record in delivering outstanding commercial revenues for global sports brands and developing multi-channel retail businesses is second to none.
Curious is the timing, indeed. Arseblog mentions that while it remains to be seen, there's always the possibility the club could buy out the remaining year of their existing deal with Nike, much in the same vein that Chelsea did with Umbro when it moved to Adidas in Roman Abramovich's first year with the club. While specific details in the club's agreement with Nike aren't publicly-known, the club certainly has the cash reserves to do so if it felt that there was too much of a positive consequence in terminating the agreement early that it could immediately begin to benefit from a new shirt sponsorship agreement.
Lilley's background in successfully locking down Adidas sponsorships for such organizations like UEFA and the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games clearly demonstrates that he has the industry knowledge and networks to move Arsenal in a sponsorship direction that aligns with the club's goals. The only question that remains now is if he dips his toes, yet again, into the Adidas waters. Given his background with the manufacturer and steering the above-mentioned organizations towards Adidas, we may certainly be looking at a new shirt manufacturer sooner than expected.