Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Are our biggest clubs really global brands?

Posted by John Beech on December 9, 2010

You certainly notice the presence of Premier League clubs in Kenya (where I’ve just been on a somewhat delayed ‘summer’ holiday).

Can any Manchester United fan supply the vintage?

Curio seller in the middle of nowhere, Kenya. Can any Manchester United fan supply the vintage?

Well, of the predictable few.  Arsenal are, on the basis of an entirely unsystematic and unscientific survey of shirts and baseball caps and a pretty small sample, the clear number one English club of choice for Kenyan fans, followed not so far behind by Manchester United, with Chelsea a poor and third. That was it really. I did see Liverpool mentioned on a sandwich board outside a bookies, but no shirts. In fact the only other shirts were either local Kenyan clubs or Brazil.

The presence manifested itself not only through shirts, but also by slightly crudely painted club crests on cafés, and, in one case, the rather unexpected ‘Gunners Hairdressers’.  Presumably their Boro Primorac isn’t that popular with customers.

Apart from the fact that I found in yet another country only the famous few were present, two things struck me.

First, what did the clubs actually gain from their presence?  I would suspect that those wearing shirts had not contributed to direct sales, and that few Kenyans were avidly using the online club shops.  They certainly weren’t buying tickets for the games.  And how did a baseball cap with ‘Fly Emirates’ as the obvious feature do anything for Arsenal (as we passed, I didn’t even spot an Arsenal logo)?  Again only a suspicion, but I doubt that Arsenal have been leveraging up their price to Emirates on the basis of this particular exposure.  If there was any return, it was for the sponsor but not for the club.

Secondly, the presence of so many hand-painted logos might be seen as some sort of compliment to Arsenal, but the unlicensed use of logos said something about the nature of the clubs’ presence and the weakness of any commercial basis.  It was a kind of artificial presence.  The Arsenal or whichever brand did not have a presence on a par with that of a truly global logo such as Coca Cola.  And that’s probably the point – Coca Cola has an enormous presence in Kenya through their products and the infrastructure to support and develop the sale of their products.  Any unlicensed use of their logos would stamped on by locally-based Coca Cola staff,with the zeal of the IOC spotting that I had mentioned that event which is taking place between 2011 and 2013 in the UK capital by its conventional name.

Because of the lack of product presence, other than, that is, the intangible product presence through broadcasting, it’s hard to justify even the biggest Premier League clubs as global brands in any conventional sense.  The sale of official merchandising at the café (or hairdresser) can only be a dream.  The opening of Manchester United shops in the Far East, for example, is the first steps in becoming a truly global brand, but it is frankly just scratching the surface of an enormous potential market.  To be successful, these clubs will have to produce a radically different marketing mix with new 4Ps (product, price, place and promotion).

3 Responses to “Are our biggest clubs really global brands?”

  1. I think they are brands in the sense that they are globally recognised but they are easily replaceable in their market so are they really branks…perhaps not

  2. Rooooooney said

    FootSouvenir is right that they are replaceable.

    As for brands, you have to separate the question by which imperial power played god in particular countries.
    The ones that were conquered by french and spanish dont have the same attachment as those countries that were forced to speak english.
    Go to Senegal and Cameroun and there is very little interest in teams as much as there is in individual african players; Adebayor, Drogba, etc

    I travel quite a bit for work and have been to south america a dozen times and also to africa and asia another dozen each.
    Arsenal is beloved for the same reason people love Barca and Brazil (no Dunga s team… people around the planet were saddened with the joylessness of the brazilian game)… everybody sees themselves in those teams.

    United is a big brand and team in some countries while in others it will be
    simply as a brand. This of course was true in the superstar era and just as recently as Cristiano Ronaldo;s stint in the team.
    Ronaldo is a big star in almost every country while the Rooney star quality is only in a few countries.
    Again, language is a huge part of this equation.

    Oh yeah, the EPL shirts Ive seen over the years are almost ALL counterfeit so im not sure how this helps the bottom line.

  3. Rooooooney said

    I forgot to mention that I also have bought 6-7 bootleg shirts over the years as gifts or for myself and they cost me less than one official EPL one I have.

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