Arsenal: The need to create a super brand

 Arsenal merchandise sold outside the Main Stadium during the match between Arsenal and the Indonesia All-Stars at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on July 14, 2013 in Jakarta, Indonesia.  (Getty Images)

Arsenal merchandise sold outside the Main Stadium during the match against the Indonesia All-Stars at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on July 14, 2013 in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Getty Images)

There is an old adage that knowledge is power but money talks. Nowhere is that more apt than in the current scenario of commercialisation in football.

In a time when football revenue is so important the building of a brand for a football club is essential. Bigger the brand, bigger will be the amounts fans are willing to shell out to obtain a piece of the club whether it be jerseys or any other club paraphernalia.

Currently no two clubs are bigger and better at this than Manchester United and Real Madrid. Both clubs cashed in on their tremendous on field success and big name players to create global super brands.

By opening club based stores and restaurants in parts of the world like India, which may be a nascent football power but a highly lucrative market nevertheless, United have hit upon a mantra of successful commercialisation that is seeing their brand go day by day.

Madrid are the past masters at this form of commercialisation going as far as being involved in multi- million dollar film being made on them (Goal II: Living the Dream). All these measures have seen a surge in their popularity.

The by product of all this popularity is increased revenue. It is said that David Beckham’s transfer cost from United to Madrid was recouped through replica jersey sales. That is quite mind boggling in itself and also serves as a neat business trick.

Seeing all this I find it hard to believe that a club like Arsenal hasn’t yet realised the power of such commercialisation. In the EPL era, the rivalry with United and Arsene Wenger’s arrival led to a flood of trophies and achievements that one will find hard to emulate.

But while one club continued to build their brand the other (Arsenal) did not cash in on all this success. It is only in recent times that the club have realised that the Asian market is a huge commercial opportunity waiting to happen. And hence the recent tours to China, Japan and Indonesia.

Freddie Ljunberg himself commented on how stunned he was by the reception he received from fans in Indonesia when he landed there recently. I’m a bit disappointed that Arsenal hasn’t seen the opportunity to expand their image in a country like India, unlike United, which has already established a name there.

A few years back it was even hard to get an Arsenal away kit in a Nike store in India. No such problem for United though since Nike quickly realised that the demand for United jerseys in India was high and would sell a range of products of theirs.

It could be argued that lack of success on the football pitch has hampered the process of successful commercialisation for Arsenal. Over the last 5 years Brand Chelsea has grown by leaps and bounds due to their successful exploits on the pitch.

If only the club had laid a blueprint to expand the brand during the ‘Invincibles’ era, which led to the rise of new ‘Gooners’ the world over, things may have been different on the commercial aspect of things for Arsenal.

The current scenario in today’s world is such that European football is not just popular in Europe alone but is popular all over the world too. While certain clubs have realised that early and capitalised on that popularity, others have lagged behind.

I can only hope that Arsenal realise this and continue building their brand in countries like India, China and even African countries for that matter. This may be viewed as selling the soul of the club, but in such times such actions are necessary to stay afloat.

Now is the perfect time to start, the club is ranked the fourth most valuable association football club in the world and with a little better brand marketing can really rake in the moolah and offset the debt incurred by the new stadium cost as well as provide the manager with some good funds to spend on top players.

Because it today’s competitive market, it is all about the money, honey.

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