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Guest blog: Arsenal Football Club and its brand strength

Guest blog, written by Andrei Cosmin Stan, Todor Yuriev Todorov, Gintaras Nareckas, Dominik Overbeck, Rainer Komi , Simeon Valentinov Naydenov (international sport management students, Kenneth Cortsen (ed.)).

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Photo: int. sport management students in Aalborg (see names above).

Building a sports brand is a process, which involves different steps, e.g. brand awareness, brand image, brand equity and brand loyalty[1]. Working in the sports industry it is important to nurture the creation, development and management of these different steps.

Smiths sport branding process

Figure: Developing a sports brand (source: Introduction to Sport marketing by Aaron Smith, page 121).

Brand awareness refers to how an organization is recognized and remembered by its targeted consumers[2]. The specific tools used by a company to transmit its identity and image to different stakeholders, help build and establish brand awareness.

Arsenal is a football club based in London, UK. The club was established in 1886. Throughout its history, the club developed into one of the world’s most famous football clubs[3].

Since its early years, the club focused on media exposure to establish brand awareness. To exemplify this, the match against Sheffield United on January 22 1927 was the first game to be broadcasted live on the radio in England[4].  Ten years after, Arsenal set another pioneering milestone by appearing in the first football game to be broadcasted on television by BBC. To highlight the importance of this step in terms of creating awareness, it is worthy to mention that the match was ‘specially arranged’ between the first eleven and the reserve team[5]. Nowadays, Arsenal is still in the game of pioneering in terms of the media-sports nexus via its involvement in the first ever ‘3D live television’ public broadcasting of a sport event. On January 31, 2010, Arsenal’s home game against Manchester United was broadcasted live in 3D by Sky Sports in over 9 pubs in five cities in England. One of the commentators for this event was a former legend of Arsenal, Alan Smith[6].

As seen in the above-mentioned examples, Arsenal is a club, which was aware of the media power in creating brand awareness even from the early days. In this sense, the club is still looking for possibilities to make full use of the new communication tools like social media and other online platforms. By managing the media-sports nexus, Arsenal manages to deliver a unique and strong identity, which stands for tradition, performance and passion.

In 2013, Arsenal announced their profits, which come as positive factors for the future development of the club. “It is therefore positive that the strong financial platform we have created in recent years allows us to continue to be competitive at the highest level”[7] Sir Chips Keswick the club’s chairman declared on their webpage.

Arsenal’s vision statement is ‘to provide a world class soccer program that develops world class soccer players’. The ‘Asian-awareness tournaments’ are developed to increase the fan database and to maintain a close relationship with relevant stakeholders. After the 2013 summer tournament, Arsenal created a new strategic partnership with Bodog, which became an official partner. Vinai Venkatesham, head of global partnerships at Arsenal declared that: “As our fanbase in Asia continues to grow rapidly, working in partnership with companies like Bodog who have long-term roots in the region, provides a strong platform to further engage with Arsenal fans in Asia.”[8] This is not the club’s first action in following their vision and mission, as Arsenal has arranged tournaments and partnerships in Asia in different countries over the last couple of years.

Image

Arsenal FC Vision and Mission Statements:

a) Arsenal FC Vision:

‘To provide a world class soccer program that develops world class soccer players’[9].

b) Arsenal FC Mission Statements:

–To provide high level coaching to nurture and develop local talent through a technical and tactical training program combined with game competition at the highest level.

–To staff Arsenal FC with the best and most passionate soccer coaches in the Southern California area.

–To gain relentless support and participation from our parents, alumni, and communities.

–To partner with other soccer organizations and non-soccer organizations that can help us reach and achieve our vision.

–To develop and improve our facilities and equipment.

–To improve our marketing, messaging and communication.

–To be financially self-sufficient.

In general:

Local workers in London founded FC Arsenal in 1886. Nowadays, the club is often perceived in a positive way, because it still has popularity in the middle-class. Though, a problem area in that sense may be that the club has one of the highest ticket price levels in UK. Over the years, Arsenal has created a sense of community. In the early years, the club gained popularity in British Islands, but from start of 1970’s when Arsenal won UEFA Europa League (1970), the Premier League and the FA Cup (1971), the club received international attention[10]. Arsenal’s brand image became well-known across Europe. The next great era for FC Arsenal began in 1997, when Arsene Wenger became head coach. The club won the Premier League in 1997 and 2002 with players they bought and/or developed, e.g. Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit and Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Fredrik Ljungberg. In these years, Arsenal became a well-known brand worldwide. One of the reasons was the work of successful manager Arsene Wenger and his players, who were (or became) famous on a global scale. Another attractive side of Arsenal was the club’s appealing and offensive style of football in these years. The club played fast one-touch football[11].

As Arsenal stated in its Mission statement, the clubs wants to develop local talent through a technical and tactical training program combined with game competition at the highest level and this part has helped to attach a positive side to their image. Local people like to see that the club is an active part of the society and that the club is taking good care of local talents (CSR).

The gunners:

Arsenal FC is called the Gunners in reference to the canons; in the early days of the FA, Arsenal had a relationship with Woolwich Arsenal, which made guns and ammunition hence the name. The canon theme has evolved over the years and has remained common on Arsenal’s varying crests down the years, including the new design[12].

Emirates Stadium:

When Arsenal FC built the stadium 1,800 new jobs were created and 2,000 new homes were built in London. The stadium has a capacity of 60,000 visitors and 1,000 construction workers built it. In that regard, the club certainly has had its share of ‘impact’ on the local community.

Social Media:

Social Media coverage Arsenal FC Man U FC Chelsea Hotspurs Man City Liverpool
Twitter followers 2.82 million 1.05 million 2.8 million 0.6 million 1.2 million 2 million
Facebook Likes 15 million 35 million 18.7 million 2.3 million 6.1 million 12.8 million

Equity

To better understand what kind of service Arsenal is offering, we chose to look at five areas, which “are commonly used to describe the specific aspects of service quality. They are reliability, assurance, empathy, responsiveness and tangibles.[13]

Reliability:

To provide reliable service Arsenal tries to offer different kinds of services to its fans to please their needs.

The main service package is the experiences, which the stakeholders get while watching the matches between “Arsenal” and its competitors.

Price of the tickets (average)[14] [15]

Members Non-members
Category A – 63.6 £ Category A – 65 £
Category B – 36.4 £ Category B – 37 £
Category C – 26 £ Category C – 26.5 £

The club has a flexible ticket ordering system. And extra fee varies from 1 to 2 pounds:

  • Online Booking Fee £1.65 (per ticket)
  • Telephone Booking Fee £1.85 (per ticket)
  • Family Enclosure Telephone Booking Fee £1
  • Postal Booking Fee £1.50 (per booking)

The price of the membership fee varies from 26 to 94 pounds per season. For the youngsters, the prices for the tickets are cheaper. Even though the price for the ticket differs slightly for members and non-members, the members are getting extra benefits such as:

  • E-news letter
  • Priority ticket access
  • Member events
  • Arsenal magazine
  • Free merchandize items

Other parts of the service offering include the fact that the club sells different merchandise items for the fans, e.g. shirts, shoes, training outfits, scarfs and different accessories (everything with the club logo as an integrated piece).

Arsenal has its merchandise shop located at the “Emirates stadium” and also offers an online shop. In this way, the fans can purchase items in the way, which is most comfortable for them.

Additionally, the club has a special system for the disabled people, who can use a special area so that they gain easier access to the stadium and have the opportunity to park their cars near the venue.

Moreover, Arsenal delivers socializing events, where fans can gather at the local restaurant and enjoy their meals. They also provide accommodation in their local restaurant, tours through the club’s exhibition (trophies, gallery), and the club’s most important places. For more inquisitive fans, Arsenal offers the history of the club and its most important dates as a part of the tour.

Compared with 2012, Arsenal has increased its yearly turnover by  £7.5 mio. (£235.3 mio. in 2012 to  £242.5 mio. 2013)[16]. The club spent more money in 2013 on players than in 2012 (£36.8 mio. in 2012 while  £58.7 mio. in 2013). That may somewhat explain why Arsenal’s 2013 ‘profits before tax’ accounted for  £6.7 mio. measured against £36.6 mio. in 2012. However, the club is doing well financially. The club’s turnover is positive. On top of that, Arsenal is trying to improve its strengths (on the pitch – and that is closely related to continued financial performance in top football) by buying new players and improving services to ensure better achievements and to please the fans.

Responsiveness:

As mentioned in reliability part, Arsenal tries to provide more qualitative service to its fans based on fans’ needs, including help for the disabled people[17]. The club offers underground access for disabled people around the stadium to make their way to the game as easy as possible. Arsenal has a special bus, which is wheelchair accessible, and also has bus stops near the stadium. Furthermore, Arsenal has a taxi service, which is also accessible for disabled people (not to forget special access to toilets, the Arsenal museum and art exhibitions).

To listen to the needs of the fans, Arsenal applies its Facebook fan page (almost 15 million of fans following), Twitter fan page (2.8 million of followers), weekly voting pools and official email contact where fans can engage with ‘Arsenal managers’. For even better communication, Arsenal is providing special numbers where fans can call and ask different questions. Based on that information, the club is really trying to listen to the needs of the fans.

Assurance:

Because of the managerial stability (Arsene Wenger has been the manager since 1996), Arsenal creates a credible atmosphere and through its continuous development ensures the loyalty of the fan database. In 2011, the number of fans reached more than100 million[18]. The loyalty of the fans can be seen in the fact that the club has one of the biggest membership schemes in the game with more than 200,000 members[19].

Empathy:

By looking at the needs of the fans, Arsenal provides special football (soccer) schools, which are offered worldwide[20]. The duration of these schools is one week and the schools are situated in different parts of the world so most of the fans (especially youth) get the opportunity to gain top-notch skills and knowledge in the field of football.

Furthermore, Arsenal FC started Arsenal Foundation (fundraising and grant-making organization), which helps to engage young people in different education programs, literacy, language programs and different projects. It gave “more than 850,000 pounds to support a variety of local and global projects over the past year, enabling more young people around the globe to fulfill their potential.[21]

Tangibles:

The main tangible physical feature of the club is the Emirates stadium. It’s one of the most technologically developed stadiums in Europe with different access for disabled people. Arsenal provides restaurant and hotel facilities, where the customers can try different intangible experiences. Moreover, the club provides different attributes with the logo on it, such as: shirts, shoes, training outfits, cups, scarfs and other merchandise items.

In relation to the spread of the information, the club provides different booklets about its games, information about the team structure and other key information at the info stands around the stadium.

Loyalty

By addressing the quality of the sports services and goods offered by Arsenal FC, the management is encouraging loyalty by offering rewards and possibilities for the fans to express themselves in connection with their common passion.

For example in the season 2012/2013, Arsenal had 19 home games in the Premier League. The stadium holds 60,112 seats and in average for each game there was 60,079 fans watching the game[22].

Depending on the membership type, there are different extra benefits, which enhance the experience.  The convenience of choosing and purchasing a membership online is an added value in the service offering. Therefore, it is easy to get access in an official supporters club, which can be found all over the world.

On Arsenal’s home page, the club is promoting the ‘sense of belonging’ by suggesting the world fans to “get involved!” and enroll in one of the many supports clubs.

Another major step in getting close to its supporters was through publically selling bonds. This decision came after the £ 430 million debt to pay for the Emirates stadium. The fans now had the opportunity to own a part of the club and also some other benefits were listed. The ‘Arsenal Fanshare’ gives the opportunity for the new generations of supporters to advance their involvement in the club from simple support to actual ownership[23].

Concluding remarks

To sum up, Arsenal FC went through all the phases to create a strong global sports brand. Throughout the club’s history, the management established a strategic framework, in which they developed a strong organization with unique identity that focuses on the various stakeholder groups of the club.


[1] Aaron C.T. Smith, Introduction To Sport Marketing (Elsevier, 2008, Oxford) page 119

[2] Aaron C.T. Smith, Introduction To Sport Marketing (Elsevier, 2008, Oxford) page 120

[4] Paul Donnelly, First, Last and Only Football (Hachette UK, 2010, London) page 1925

[5] Happened on this day- 16 September, accessed 24th of September, 2013, http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/funny_old_game/2260280.stm

[6] Arsenal Vs Manchester United Live in 3D, accessed 24th of September, 2013 http://www.theguardian.com/football/2010/jan/28/arsenal-manchester-united-3d-television

[7] Financial results 2013, accessed 24th of September, 2013 http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/49598/arsenal-holdings-plc-financial-results

[8] Club welcomes Bodog as official partner, accessed 24th of September, 2013 http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/club-welcomes-bodog-as-official-partner

[11] http://worldsoccer.about.com/od/leaguesandclubs/p/Arsenal-Club-Profile.htm

[12] http://www.ask.com/question/why-are-arsenal-fc-called-the-gunners

[13] Introduction to Sport marketing by Aaron Smith, page 121

[22] http://www.fupa.net/liga/premier-league-england-1858/zuschauer.html

[23] Custodianship at Arsenal, accessed 24th September, 2013 http://www.arsenalfanshare.com/about-us/custodianship

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COMMENTS

One Response to Guest blog: Arsenal Football Club and its brand strength

  1. Avatar
    Balázs Perkó September 29, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Good work Colleagues! Some minor comments:
    – In my opinion membership belongs to loyalty and the special schools project more belongs to the responsivness.
    – Mission: ‘Arsenal stated in its Mission statement, the clubs wants to develop local talent’ – Rather funny when Arsenal was the first team in the PL who field an all-foreign squad: Arsenal (v Crystal Palace), February 14, 2005.
    – In the ’70s it was called UEFA Cup and the English First Division yet.

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