Why Arsenal FC thinks football can be the first sector ‘to monetise social media’

When it comes to deeply engaged audiences, football fans rank highly, something that is strikingly obvious across social media, particularly come match day. It's this opportunity that Arsenal Football Club believes will result in the sport being among the first sectors to turn social engagement into sales.

But despite having a massive following across its social channels – 49 million on Facebook, 70 million on Twitter and 2 million on Chinese platforms – the London club is trying to overcome its “biggest marketing challenge” of converting fans in to customers, the clubs head of marketing Charles Allen told The Drum at the Marketing Academy Scholars showcase yesterday (10 May).

“You can be the biggest Arsenal fan in the world, and I’ve met many of them, who have no relationship with the club, who’ve never bought anything from the club, who have no intention of buying anything from the club, but they still declare themselves as the biggest fans,” he said.

“B2C is an area of incredible opportunity for us. We have hundreds of millions of fans around the world but we have around 2 million who transact with us on a B2C basis, so how do we drive that transaction, how do we make our offer through our ecommerce platform, through our stadium tour business, through our ticketing business more attractive than anything else? We do that through the power of our brand, the power of content and the power of the relationship that actually fans want to have with the club. At the end of the day football fans are looking for a feeling of belonging and they want to feel close to the club, we’ve just got to get them inside the tent.

“What really excites me at the moment in a football context is that I believe this category will be some of the first to monetise social media,” he added.

Arsenal is also leveraging its relationship with sponsors such as domestic appliance business Indesit as part of this strategy, with the brand able to leverage the huge amount of data the club has on its fans to drive commercial insights.

Elsewhere, the Premier League outfit is looking at how it can create more meaningful engagement with fans across social media and keep hold of exclusive content in time-sensitive environments such as on match days, when content is readily available.

“The real challenge is getting to the nuggets that people will really like. In a world of free most people can get their Arsenal fix out there somewhere, so given that all the content originates from here, which are the real nuggets that we hold back for ourselves? What are the really exclusive bits that are ours that will then drive numbers?”

Earlier this year Arsenal fans were ranked as the most active Twitter users in the English Premier League according to figures released by the social platform.

A recent campaign to promote Europcar's sponsorship of Arsenal FC, has seen the club's footballers Petr Čech, Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker, star in an online video, which pulled in 2.5 million YouTube views just a week after it broke.

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