Arsenal’s Tom Fox on the Gunners’ commercial moves into new global markets

Arsenal's Chief Commercial Officer Tom Fox looks at the opportunities for the club outside of the UK market and the strategies being put in place to achieve this.


GlobalSportsJobs: Arsenal is in a very competitive market. But what are the opportunities outside of the UK markets?
Tom Fox: Most football clubs have to look beyond the area where they've typically generated revenue in. So in our case, Emirates Stadium was the fantastic move for the club financially. But 40% of our revenue comes from the Stadium and the people that we're speaking to are in a very narrow catchment area in and around London. So if we want to grow our revenues, it's not enough to think in terms of people who can come and buy a match ticket. We have to think about what a football club really represents to our fans and then try to determine how to take that and build that relationship around the world.
So for us we think more in terms of approaching fans and making them feel that connection to the club and making them feel that sense of belonging - that is primarily why we exist. It's not about us selling a match ticket. So we try to go around the world and find those groups of fans and make them feel that they're as connected to the brand and the club as possible. And if we do that we know we have tremendous value for big global partners like Emirates Airlines, like Nike - and that's where the value really lies.
GlobalSportsJobs: And how would you sum up the Arsenal brand? What does it mean to be an Arsenal supporter?
TF: I think people have a really individual experience with their football club. I think if you wanted to boil it down, the one thing we're really trying to achieve with everyone is a sense of pride. People join football clubs and that supporter base to feel that connection and really what they want to feel is pride. That pride can come in terms of winning trophies, but can also come in terms of competing, running a business model that allows the club to sustain itself and guarantee that it will be around for the long-term. The fans around the world can feel proud of the quality of the football stadium, of the type of football that we play. And many of the fans feel proud that we develop young talent and bring them through […] we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about our global fan base and what we can do to continue to make them proud to be Arsenal.
GlobalSportsJobs: So what sort of strategies is Arsenal putting in place to deliver those results?
TF: Well thankfully technology has helped quite a bit. I think touring was the primary tool which football clubs used. It was believed that if you went into that market and played a match, you would connect with that fan base and it was job done. But whilst touring is a great enabler and is important to focus people's time and attention around a specific event, really it’s social media that has been the biggest enabler to our ability to engage with fans.
So when we go to a market like China, for example - within the space of two years we've been able to go from 35,000 registered users on their equivalent of Facebook, to 900,000 within the span of around 16 months. And the reason that's important is because those fans aren't just consuming content or looking at Arsenal highlights - they're actually engaging with the club. They're giving us more information about themselves. They're telling us to give them more information when it becomes available and they’re giving us feedback as to how they feel about the type of content we’re creating. We're really looking to build that relationship and social media has been a great enabler of that.
On top of that I'd say our corporate partners are incredibly important too. Emirates airlines activated in all three marketing that we toured in last summer - In Beijing, in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. They have activation programmes in each of the three markets. Those activation programmes took us into new households, said different things about the Arsenal brand and sold us to people that might not have been interested in football before, but gave us a much broader platform.
So you've got your partnerships, your social media, and then of course on top of that the tremendous live game programming that the Premier League puts into the market and how we supplement that with our club channels. So the media business has been a huge enabler of that too.

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