Book Review: 'Winning Together: The Story of the Arsenal Brand'

Last updated : 05 October 2006 By Brian Dawes
This is not a normal Arsenal title because it forms part of a series about brands, so it should come as no surprise that the series is called Great Brand Stories. The other brands in question include, amongst others, EBay, Dyson, Adidas, Scotch Whisky and Ikea. Now although I've both studied and to a degree am actively involved in marketing I have a tendency to run screaming out of the door as soon as someone starts droning on about core product values, adaptive enterprise or corporate identity. While anyone who uses the ‘buzzword of the day' which they read about ten minutes ago in ‘Marketing Week' sets my teeth on edge. So I was a tad worried that this publication might not appeal to me in a way that other Arsenal titles might. However flicking through the pages before reading I knew by a quick glance of the illustrations that the authors were true Gooners. Whether or not they could talk me through the essence of the brand value, they certainly knew what being part of The Arsenal was all about judging by the many well chosen many black and white pictures dotted throughout this paperback. Thus encouraged I believed that I might yet read a marketing related title from cover to cover.

What makes you follow a team? Identity, belonging, shared experiences, family values there are a probably thousand of reasons but the opening chapter explores this aspect in a very original way by use of a father and son dialog conversing via emails.

The second chapter runs through a brief history and is appropriately entitled ‘Building a tradition'. Solid commendable stuff about the history of the Club but nothing new here for any but the very newest corporate Arsenal fans I suspect.

Chapter three entitled ‘We are the Arsenal' uses four captains, namely McLintock, Rice, Adams and Vieira to explore the historic values handed down and what the Club is all about in respect of attitude and performance on the pitch. The underlying values that have been impressed upon them are generally known as the Arsenal way. Having a rather large collection of Arsenal titles I tend to judge new books by whether I'm able to glean anything new about the club or players and I'm pleased to say I did. I also liked the quotes used, ranging from the Highbury Spy to Frank McLintock, and in the main all highly appropriate.

The fourth chapter attempts to define what the authors see as the brand values, which they broadly define as courage in the face of adversity, loyalty to each other, positive about the future and proud of our past. Spot on I'd say. At this point its only fair to say that I came I upon this title much later than it's original publication date. Much has happened since publication date which may appear to make the text a little dated in respect of crowd figure breakdowns which apply to Highbury rather than Ashburton. But for all that the relevance of the contents stands up well.

Chapters five explains the reality of the Clubs business model and how ours varies from the other types of business models used by our most serious rivals for the market share. Also considered are just how this has dramatically changed since the introduction of the Premiership and the advent of Sky TV. Arsenal is reported as being a good model and better than others in some respects. It would appear that we are well set for the future in this respect but we all know how both teams and Clubs are liable to swing from one extreme to another.

The next chapter compares us with our chief rivals for the market share namely Manure, the Chavs, the Totts, Celtic Rangers, Juve, Milano Barca and Real. This iincludes interesting stuff about our rivals in what is now an expanding and ever changing global market. The concept of our Club as competitive global brand is a relatively new reality and one where competition off the pitch is almost as fierce as it is on it. Such thinking is also new as can been seen by the diverse ways in which various Clubs are competing to be top dog off the pitch as well as on it.

The final chapter shows just how the Club can progress but also emphasises the greater social responsibilities that go hand in hand with such an illustrious institution as ours. It is even suggested that there has been the merest glimmer of a new customer service approach from the Arsenal. Something long overdue and held back possibly by a rather obvious long held inability to pay heed to their huge customer base. Which in turn is probably not altogether unconnected with a lack of strong middle management at the Club.

This thought provoking book has made me consider the Club in a whole new way and I can probably now understand why it is that venues such as The Emirates are in grave danger of becoming the new Henley-on-Thames or Wimbledon. The continued fear of course is that the Club will not move quick enough to consult their broader customer base and will in the meantime discard their established solid customer base for something altogether more transient. If the Club are to succeed in their quest for global dominance both on and off the pitch then I recommend that this is a ‘must read' for all the directors and management. If they don't read the book they should at least read and digest page 189 that provides ‘Six Lessons if the Arsenal Band is to Win'. Six lessons which, in my opinion, are spot on.

The lessons are also not entirely unconnected with the title of the book ‘Winning Together' which in case your Latin isn't quite up to scratch could be regarded as the modern translation for ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit'.

Winning Together: The Story of the Arsenal Brand
John Simmons & Matt Simmons
Published by Cyan price £8.99

Available from all the usual internet booksellers but should you prefer to order through your local bookstore the ISBN numbers you need to quote are 1 904879 60 8 OR 978 1 904879 60 2