By Jonathan Davies
Arsenal Football Club’s social media is widely regarded as one of the best — in football terms at least. It has more followers (2,605,001 at the time of research) than any other club in the Premier League. And of the world’s elite clubs, only Spanish giants Barcelona beat Arsenal in the ‘followers league table’ with more than a whopping nine million.
But for all their hard work on digital marketing, The Gunners might just be shooting themselves in the foot. In modern football, it’s very rare than clubs and managers will talk openly about transfer bids, targets and gossip.
This summer has bucked the trend slightly with Real Madrid openly confirming a bid was made for Tottenham Hotspur and Wales star, Gareth Bale; Jose Mourinho has spokenly openly about Chelsea’s pursuit of Manchester United striker, Wayne Rooney; and Arsenal is even guilty too, confirming a bizarre bid of £40,000,001 was made for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.
But ‘Media Watch’, a feature of Arsenal’s official website has caused quite a stir amongst the Gunners’ supporters. The concept of ‘Media Watch’ is quite simple. The club publish a list of articles about Arsenal from other sources like news organisations and trusted blogs. Many Arsenal supporters on radio shows, forums and websites are growingly increasingly frustrated at the lack of summer signings, despite the promise of millions to spend and the club’s transfer record being broken three times. And yet the website is fuelling such speculation.
Arsenal aren’t the only club to run a feature similar to ‘Media Watch’; Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester City, Swansea City and Tottenham are the other clubs that operate similar features on their respective websites. And they run the risk of undoing all the hard work done on marketing. When in front of the press the clubs’ policy is to not talk about other clubs’ players, posting various articles fuels the speculation, and fuels the supporters’ anger over lack of transfers in Arsenal’s case.
Part of marketing a brand, and that’s what a football club is these days — a brand, is the consistency of the brand. Consistency in its actions and policies leads to trust in the club/brand. But if they are not consistent, and are sending mixed messages, they run the risk of damaging the brand, the club and its reputation.
In a more extreme example, what Arsenal and the five other Premier League clubs are doing is similar to a company that focuses on products and services aimed at reducing energy and costs, using obscene amounts of energy and spending vast amounts on their bills.
Here are a few opinions from supporters: In an article, a member of the Black Scarf Movement, an Arsenal supporters group, said: “this morning I'm greeted first thing by the utterly crass Media Watch spamming tweet from Arsenal. That page and that practice HAS to go. Arsenal's way (as much as it keeps fans hanging on) has always been to keep schtum on speculation and transfer stories until there's something to actually talk about. All this page is, is a vehicle to drive traffic to the Arsenal website. It's spam. It's crap. It needs to go...No need for Arsenal to lower itself in this way.”
Henry McGaughey, a Fulham supporter said: “It’s a ridiculous idea. Clubs should be where you get official news not random gossip!”
But not everyone agrees. Ben James, a Plymouth Argyle said: “[It’s] fine by me, as long as it’s made clear its just media gossip and rumour! Harmless. There’s a difference between posting rumour on site & discussing another teams player in front of the press. The latter is unacceptable for me.”
Andrew Davies, a Chelsea supporter said: “It’s harmless really, I don’t think anyone who uses these sections think of it as club insider information. It’s a ‘look what people are saying about the club’ thing...And from a brand consistency point of view it’s more about exposure, spreading the brand name, than it is brand consistency.
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