Why Arsenal could still become a bigger football brand like clubs such as Real Madrid, Barca, Man United despite setback since Wenger left
I have always maintained that if Arsenal get a break (a sugar daddy financier plus or a world class coach), they would be one of the most attractive sports brands around, up there with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.
A look at Chelsea’s branding under Roman Abramovich
Chelsea, despite years of consistent success and the continued decline of traditional top clubs, have not come close to touching the cultural and commercial appeal of a post-Ferguson Man United because they are fighting for an identity that doesn’t belong to them.
I do not claim to know too much but I believe that Man United own the identity of perennial winners. Chelsea under Abramovich are also trying to base their identity on that. That space is contested in the minds of fans. Even at that, Chelsea lack a distinct footballing style.
People are wired for narratives, for sentiments and stereotype. That’s why branding works so effectively. Chelsea’s brand is all mixed up, both in a larger cultural sense and in an on-the-pitch identity. All of Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Barca, Madrid, Juventus own a story.
A look at Barca’s brand
On a global level, you can have multiple similar and successful branding but the more you go local, the more the need for a distinctive story. Barca probably have the most specific brand both locally and globally. Their brand is the most appealing and attractive in the world.
They have a story. They have tiki-taka, Messi, Ronaldinho, Iniesta, Xavi, Pep, Johan Cryuff and La Masia. They stand for something. A way of being, of playing the game. ‘Mes Que Un Club’ indeed. Barcelona are a brand. They exemplify the beautiful game on a global and local scale.
Why Arsenal should embrace branding the club
Arsenal have a similar story to sell, too. That’s why I was never behind the Emery appointment. Your brand is bigger than your club. Imagine Ajax hiring Diego Simeone. That’s just not who they are. Arsene Wenger successfully created a new cultural perception of Arsenal as the club for liquid, beautiful, free-flowing football.
You lean on that story. You sell yourself that way. You hire people based on that. Arsenal acquired so much gravity in the modern game by making themselves an identity. You continue with that. Arsenal have been known for years under Wenger as ‘Aesthetics FC’. They do the beautiful, the expressive, the romantic and the new.
Clubs like Ajax, Barca, Bayern and Madrid always recycle their old players into leadership roles. They know that they have a brand and must continue to represent their brand. Continuity.
These old players have bought into the identity. They don’t need to go to a marketing school to know that their clubs ought to be in a certain way. That’s what the Glazers [Man United owners] have failed so miserably to get. They don’t know/or care about the brand that Man United are.
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They just want to make money without putting in the work to ensure continuity. Man United win. That is who Man United are. They are footballing royalty, perennially successful, the club for high-achievers and those who admire success. The Glazers have not continued that.
Brand identity is extremely difficult to destroy. You are basically leaning on the power of stereotypes to sell. A stereotype or popular perception is incredibly hard to dislodge, even in the face of contradictory facts and that’s a fact. People are mentally lazy.
I believe Arsenal also have the identity of being innovators, at least locally. If I were the owner, I would make sure that the club was up there with the latest developments in football and sell it to the media that way. The moment success appears, innovation will be credited.
It appears that the Kroenkes might be realizing the brand value of Arsenal, being the Americans that they are. Arteta’s hiring, the links to aestheticians like Onana, White, Maddison, Aouar, Camavinga, Joaquin Correa says something. They even sacked the u-23 coach for aesthetics.
If Arsenal can get their aestheticians and technicians, especially capable ones, and the owners are conscious of and willing to continue this, then Arsenal will return to being Top 5 most valuable football clubs in the world. That is what Arsenal have over Chelsea. The gift that Wenger gave them.
Between a consistently successful Chelsea and Arsenal, who do you think captivates the public’s imagination, especially with Arsenal’s style? Success is flickering. Clubs are realizing that this is all a brand battle. Even the Man United owners are finally getting it.
Man City were on Chelsea’s “Just win first” path before they hired an old Barcelona executive, Txiti Bergestrain (wrong spelling). This was the man who brought in a vision of Pep-ball at all levels of the City Football Group. In another world, IMO, Pep might have ended up at Arsenal.
You establish your identity with success, of course. Success is what puts you in the public’s view. Why do we see Ajax as the club for beautiful football, innovation and academy stars more than, say, a Leverkusen, Brighton and FC Porto?
Apart from the fact that they have been doing it for longer, Ajax have also been wildly successful with it. They have used success to burn an image of Ajax™ into the cultural stream.
THAT IS WHAT CITY ARE TRYING TO DO WITH PEP
Ultimately, it’s for the best if Arsene Wenger is brought back into an executive role at Arsenal. Although with Arteta and Per Mertersacker leading the club at both the u-23 and pro level, his spirit still lives on strongly at the club. The Kroenkes might still be their break.
Also a small but important part of why I’m for the signing of Ben White to Arsenal. There are not many defenders who are more elegant to watch on a screen than him. Probably only Van Dijk in the league. He is just elegant, and is a part of the puzzle in Arsenal’s return to our brand spirit. Maybe?
Also, brand identity is not equal. Barcelona’s football identity will always be more appealing than Atletico Madrid’s. It’s just what it is. The beautiful game is the beautiful game. Once this cycle of shit ends, Arsenal will return and the return will be so emotionally-laden.
Why is it so satisfying when a club like Ajax wins the Champions League the Ajax Way?
Why would it be so satisfying if Man United pass their way to winning the league?
That’s the stereotype/identity being confirmed in your mind. Your mind wants it to be true.
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