Leading design agency Pentagram has been hired to rebrand the World Chess Championships, after the World Chess Federation (FIDE) accorded the commercial rights to the sport to technology entrepreneur Andrew Paulson.
Mr Paulson struck the deal with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of FIDE, to host the championships and provide long-term commercial structure for the game, with an increased prize fund of 5.4 million euros, according to a latest press release.
AGON, the company set up to administer the commercial activities of World Chess, has briefed Pentagram to position the sport as a global entertainment form that encompasses the interactive potential of the internet and mobile technology.
Pentagram has designed the new auditorium for the next World Chess Championship cycle, which will start next March in London as part of the European Tour, before moving on to Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Berlin and Istanbul.
The championship games will be broadcast live on the internet, on iPads and on smartphones. A range of apps will allow fans to follow the championships on all the major social media platforms. Mr Paulson is also negotiating with global cable television channels for highlights coverage on living room television sets.
There are 605 million chess players worldwide, of which 43.8 million are in the US, but the sport is so far a clean slate in terms of advertising. Mr Paulson is looking for six brand partners to “professionalise and enliven” the sport.
He said “World Chess will make household names of Grandmasters and provide a compelling media proposition for global companies to become sponsors. YouGov research has shown that chess is more associated with intelligence, sophistication and strategy than any other major global sport.”
Mr Paulson founded the Russian businesses Afisha Publishing House and the online media business SUP. His vision for the World Chess Championships was born following a chance meeting with Ilyumzhinov, the former leader of the Buddhist region of Kalmykia, who was re-elected as president of FIDE in 2010.
FIDE will supply the players and regulate the tournament, initially receiving 20 per cent of the prize money, with an additional profit-share agreement planned over the longer term.
Each World Chess Championship cycle will take two years, working up to the Championship Match via the Candidates Tournament, six Grand Prix and one World Cup game, where the leading challenger will take on the reigning World Champion.
Following the European Tour-themed first year, the World Chess Championships will be hosted by cities in a different economic zone each succeeding year: the Arab world in 2014, India in 2015 and the Americas in 2016.
Published with permission from Chess Magazine Black and White.