As pre-season training gets underway and transfer speculation continues to rumble around the back-pages, Leaders in Digital Sport interviews the General Manager of Arsenal Broadband Ltd, which operates the club’s digital media properties – including the UK club TV channel, mobile services, the official website and online video subscription service.
What are your key social media goals?
We create a vast amount of content via our editorial and in-house video production teams, and we’re platform agnostic when it comes to content distribution. Social media provides us with fresh and exciting ways of delivering this content and using it to engage fans in a two way dialogue. For instance we recently launched our new home kit and as well as promoting this on Twitter we asked for fans to Tweet pictures of their new kit using #ArsenalKitPics, some of which we Retweeted and then compiled into an album on Arsenal.com. Engagement is key, and tailoring content to make it engaging is our goal.
What challenges do you face at Arsenal Broadband?
Staying relevant is key and keeping on top of the ever-changing social landscape is something we challenge the whole of our digital team to do, plus we recently brought in a member of staff from our social media agency to make sure we have someone to take-on and drive new initiatives. We’re approached by countless software providers looking to partner with the club – very few of which we believe we’ll get any real value from – but we’re always receptive to new ideas and looking to explore fresh approaches if compelling enough.
Maintaining dynamism across assets is a challenge facing any brand in social media. It’s easy to fall into a routine of distributing content without pausing to think about why you’re doing it and whether it could be made more exciting for fans – and I think this is particularly true for a football club, as straight away we don’t need to work as hard as, for example, FMCG brands. Initiatives can be incredibly simple yet incredibly successful; platforms evolve and emerging platforms offer fresh ways of interacting with fans so it just takes some time spent evaluating your strategy and working out how best to leverage the channel, and how best to leverage your assets – which in our case is clearly our players. As well as simple wins there’s also the endless possibility offered by customised apps for Facebook and mobile.
How do you commercialise social channels?
We see social as primarily an engagement channel, and make no revenue directly from our assets. However, our partners are obviously keen to leverage our ever-growing fanbase and as requests for sponsored content increase we’re under pressure to strike a balance between servicing partners and avoiding over-commercialisation of channels. To manage this we place a weekly cap on sponsored content on all channels and encourage partners to make sure there is a strong Arsenal relevance within content that we do use. Fans are the beating heart of our social assets, and the worst thing we could do is turn them off by broadcasting off-brand advertisements to them.
What can we expect to see from Arsenal over the next 12 months?
- WIFI in the stadium, opening up a raft of in-stadia possibility, potentially working with 3rd party specialists in crowd engagement/interaction. One thing we would like to do is start pulling Tweets from the crowd onto the jumbotrons pre-match and at half-time.
- Expansion onto other social networks. In the short term we will be moving onto Pinterest as we see it as a channel with strategic benefit regards both SEO for our retail offering and for leveraging user generated content. Elsewhere we continue to monitor the market place and whilst keen to expand, we always put a business case behind our strategy.
- Far more social integration in our updated website, which launches later this year.
How much do you consider your international fanbase with social initiatives?
We have a huge number of fans outside the UK, representing a vast market, and have run many campaigns tailored to specific regions: it’s a bit pig-headed to deliver messages in English and assume that millions of fans across the globe are getting maximum value that way.
We’ve posted messages in a number of languages on Facebook, including a fan written blog during our Malaysian tour in 2011, which in turn came after a Malay-specific competition on the platform that was accessible only via a Malay IP address. We also work with third parties around the world to ensure we’re on target with our global social strategy. For example, working with an agency in China we garnered incredibly strong results around last year’s tour, including: 205k followers on our QQ M-Blog, 56k followers on Sina Weibo and over 5m people tuning in to a webchat with Thomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna.
Moving forwards we’re looking at ways we can continue to lift our international efforts, with tours providing the perfect way to connect personally before engaging digitally.
Michael is the General Manager of Arsenal Broadband Ltd, one of the largest digital sports businesses in Football. He has over 10 years’ online experience covering all aspects of social media, online brand development and effective monetisation strategies.
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