Another guest post for you this evening. A topical piece from our very own Snowy (good man Snowy!) on an aspect of commercialism that loomed large this week. Don’t just look away. Snowy makes a number of valid points and we aren’t playing until Monday night so take time to read the piece and comment, respectfully, in the drinks that follow. Thank s all, and thanks Snowy.
In a week where football commentary looked likely to be dominated by Chelsea’s monotone defence of their dreary style of play, and an ostrich-related breakdown by the Leicester boss, a small news item popped up on Arsenal.com that caught my eye, and for entirely the wrong reasons.
Now in general Arsenal.com is not a place I suspect any of us would turn to for fashion news, should any of us be looking for such news at all. But it must be said the recent appointment of Lanvin as Club tailors has had a rather refreshing effect on the demeanour of the first team as they turn up for games. They look smart, polished, every inch the professional. And what’s not to like there?
So it was something of an unwelcome surprise to see that the photo accompanying a few paragraphs of PR puff, about a Lanvin photo shoot with some of the players, was quite possibly the creepiest thing I have ever seen on the Club’s website. And I mean really, hideously, skin-crawlingly, creepy.
I’m not entirely sure what was more disturbing – the sight of some of our most respected first teamers leering ‘Benny Hill With Money’© style as a female model spindled before their jauntily seated selves, or the fact that said model was so painfully thin, that I am actually concerned for her health.
I realise that, in the grand scheme of things, a bit of fluff such as this is but a trifle, and we have many more pressing concerns. But it did set me to thinking about whose company we are all automatically keeping as Arsenal takes the shilling from our growing list of sponsors.
Most drinkers in this bar, whilst clearly holding many different political views, likely agree on many of the broader ethical issues of our time with respect to human rights, homophobia, sexism, child labour, and so on. Some of us may also make everyday purchasing decisions based on those types of ethical considerations too.
And that’s good, because generally we have plenty of choice, and can avoid brands associated with child or convict labour, poor worker safety records, or any other aspect of their practice we might object to. But football is different. It’s not a brand we buy. It’s a brand we join. And once joined (with the exception of the herds of plastics) we tend to stay for life.
Of course, by and large this is all fine. The various sponsorship deals in football come and go, and either enhance or impair our relationships with the sponsoring brands as they do so. I’m sure I’m not the only one who back in the day only purchased TVs and videos that were adorned with the letters JVC. And I may not be the only one who refused to drink Holsten (then) or purchase a Samsung phone (now) for very similar reasons.
So what’s changed? Well for one thing the benefits afforded to sponsoring brands have probably never been higher, and the reach never wider.
In the aftermath of last season’s FA cup triumph a rather charming video went viral which included celebrations from supporters clubs around the world. Everywhere we look – from last week’s clever little interactive map of Twitter supporters, to a glance at the Club own website, confirms the extent of our global reach.
Clearly all of this increases the Club’s appeal to potential sponsors, and will inevitably result in the number of brands and companies who want to be associated with the Club growing ever larger. Which is good, surely? Money is money, and we need the revenue streams. So who even cares?
Well I care, because I’m pretty bloody fussy about the company I keep. And I really hated that Lanvin puff piece on the club website, not just because it made members of our senior squad look stupid, but because it gave a very public platform to a key participant in an industry that is associated with utterly despicable behaviours, ranging from a long history of hideous labour practices and abuse of minors, to near universal eating disorders.
Put simply that’s not company I wish to keep at all. And it is singularly inappropriate company for a Club that has previously taken great pride in improving the prospects of errant players by enforcing good nutrition and healthier lifestyles as well.
Once upon a time it was just the two of us – supporter and club. Gate money played a massive part of the Club’s finances, and emptying terraces saw things, occasionally, change. Now that the sponsor has muscled in I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m beginning to feel a bit crowded out of the picture.
Of course I’m glad we have good commercial deals. We have after all been crying out for improvements in that area for years. Is it too much to ask that they are reputationally appropriate as well as commercially viable?
And if we don’t like them, is there anything we can do?
Not Only, But Also.
If you want to help some disadvantaged kids out with a design competition please read comment/drink #34 that follows. This pdf (click on KIDS below) contains the designs they have come up with and on which they would like to receive some feedback. Thanks.