Arsenal Football Club has become the first in the Premier League to create an app specifically for its young fans, as it looks to engage four to 11 year-olds through digital gamification.
Launching on iOS and Android today, the app slots into the offering of its youth brand – the Junior Gunners.
The platform includes leader boards, native video and two games: the Tamagotchi-esque Pocket Player, which challenges players to train up avatars of Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott; and Squad boss, a tactical, Football Manager-style platform that can be played alongside fellow Arsenal fans.
The Junior Gunners app was developed by digital agency Koko with the help of young focus groups and their parents. It has been built with safety in mind - hence its network connections are all completely internal so children cannot use it to interact with strangers - and to placate parents, no in-app purchases are available.
“A few years ago we identified a bit of a gap in the market for our young fans…especially globally,” Anne-Lise Johnsen, Arsenal’s youth product manager, told The Drum. “We recognised that not everyone can come to matches or our monthly events as a Junior Gunner, so we wanted to give them a bit more Arsenal through either their phone or tablet.
“We initially just tried to understand what type of digital proposition they wanted and after a bit of research and a bit of speaking to different agencies, we found the app world is the way we should go.”
Arsenal clearly doesn’t think of Junior Gunners as an add on to its adult club proposition; it continually activates the brand at places such as the child-friendly Camp Bestival alongside Indesit, while it also boasts its own exclusive video channel.
“One of the key priorities at Arsenal is its young fans, its fans of the future,” Johnsen explained. “We all know that most football fans choose their team while they're young - especially here in the UK and northern Europe - so we really want to encourage that even further through our Junior Gunners scheme.
“We want to be able to offer them a bit of a community, where they can experience what Arsenal life is like.”
Johnsen said the brand is looking to up its staff numbers in the Junior Gunners team, as well as the number of memberships (last year it hit 36,500). Right now, the priority is marketing the app, something that “has been really good fun to plan”, and developing it further.
Johnsen said: “We're trying to do a bit of co-creation with our young fans. so down the line we have plans to ask our young Junior Gunners which player they would like next in the pocket player, and which type of trophies they would like.
“We really believe in giving our kids a voice and this is a nice way of doing that - it also includes everyone globally."