Arsenal are not as good as other people think.

By Tony Attwood

When Arsenal toured Brazil in the summer of 1949 it was hailed as a national event in Brazil.  They welcomed what they called “the greatest football machine in the world.”

When after the first press conference Arsenal’s manager Tom Whittaker was very annoyed with the way his comments were reported in the press, he called another press conference, told the journalists what he thought of them, and said that unless an apology was forthcoming in the next edition, he would pack the team up and the would fly back home.

The apologies were duly printed.

Arsenal at the time were a world brand – indeed it is fair to say, the first world brand in football.  A football club known throughout the world as the pinnacle of football.  Tom Whittaker himself had huge renown and was part of the brand.  He was offered “name your own terms” jobs in Italy to manage Milan and sought out by the stars of every imaginable sport for advice on how to overcome injuries.

He was also pestered by the rich from across the world who wanted his specialist treatment (the treatment meted out to injured Arsenal players) for their ailments.

The brand of Arsenal started with the name the club adopted in January 1887 when it was opened up not just to Dial Square employees but everyone working in the vast mass of factories and workshops that made up the Royal Arsenal base on the south of the Thames.

It was that brand that Henry Norris recognised in 1910 when he bailed the bankrupt club out, again in 1913 when he significantly added to the brand by building Highbury and yet again in 1925 when he brought in Herbert Chapman – on this exact day in fact, 11 June – who was then later able to say to Tom Whittaker, as he upgraded him to being the club’s trainer, “I am going to make this the most famous club in the world, and you the most famous trainer.”  Both predictions came true.

The Arsenal brand slipped a lot in the Dark Era after Whittaker died, and didn’t start to pick up until 1969, and the best the club could be described as during that period was a “sleeping giant”.  Although “comatosed” might have been a better term.

The project of bringing in Arsene Wenger and then building the Emirates Stadium was in effect the project to bring the jogging along brand back to life, and once more give it a worldwide profile, and it has been incredibly successful.

But Brand Arsenal has always has downsides.  Woolwich Arsenal fans booed their own players and even forced brilliant players out.  Herbert Chapman railed against the “boo-boys” and the Arsenal History Society blog tells the story of Jack Lambert who was nearly destroyed by their tactics.   The trend continues today with the sniping of the AST and the aaa.  Some people, it seems, can’t bear others to think of their club as being “that good” or “that special”.

It happens everywhere in the world.  Anything that has a positive high profile public image has its detractors who will tell you, “you don’t know what its like”.  Arsenal is no different.

Having a brand then, can be a great benefit and a great problem.  A benefit in football because everyone has heard of Arsenal, and that helps smooth the way to signing the players the club wants.  A problem because knocking the brand is not only what the aaa and their fellows do, but also what the press love to do.

The recent report into “The world’s most valuable football club brands” defines ‘brand’.  But that definition is technical and boring, so although I include a paragraph on it below, here is a better indication of brand importance.

David Reibstein, professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, defined it all this way…

“A valuable brand delivers a return for the company on two dimensions.  Either it allows the company to charge a premium price or it adds more volume or market share.”

I think with that definition we can see where this goes in football.

But there is another thing: branding can hide rubbish, things that are bad for you, and other stuff like that.  ”When you are selling sugar and water, your brand better be very important,” said David Reibstein.  He was talking about the brand, Coca Cola.

That comment reminds us, a brand is not a reality but a perception.  When I last flew to Australia to see my daughter I changed from Qantas that I had used before to Emirates, even though Emirates was dearer.  I did it because I was sucked into the brand believing that Emirates was inherently better.  I found that to be quite untrue.  Just my opinion of course, but I’m back with Qantas now.  It is, as I say, perception.

The “Brand Finance” website in looking at football defines brand (inevitably)  in what is an artificial manner in order to build their chart of football brands.  They start by estimating attributes such as emotional connection, financial performance and sustainability, among others. This score is known as the Brand Strength Index.

I won’t go through the rest of the procedure, but it is one that uses some mathematical modelling and some estimating.  These figures are based around what’s known as the “Royalty Relief” approach which is widely used and recognised across many countries when talking about brands.

The groups below which analyse relative brand strength can be further subdivided into three groups – for example AAA+, AAA, and  AAA-.

  • AAA: the highest rated brands
  • AA: very strong
  • A: strong
  • BBB-B: average
  • CCC-C: weak
  • DDD-D: failing

Brands are built over time, and when they get to the top of the tree become very resilient to problems.  Apple, for example, a supreme brand, can have no end of employee disputes and bad publicity over anything from products released before being fully tested to bad management practice, but the firm retains its rating.  Apple is so strong that when a firm brings out a new tablet, it is often called an ipad, using Apple’s brand name, even though it isn’t.

And do remember the amount of money shown here is not the net worth, but the estimated value of the brand.

  1. Manchester United (Eng): $1206million
  2. Bayern Munich (Ger): $933million
  3. Real Madrid (Spa): $873million
  4. Manchester City (Eng): $800million
  5. Chelsea (Eng): $795million
  6. Barcelona (Spa): $773million
  7. Arsenal (Eng): $703million
  8. Liverpool (Eng): $577million
  9. Paris Saint-Germain (Fra): $541million
  10. Tottenham Hotspur (Eng): $360million
  11. Juventus (Ita): $350million
  12. Borussia Dortmund (Ger): $326million
  13. Schalke 04 (Ger): $302million
  14. AC Milan (Ita): $244million
  15. Everton (Eng): $228million
  16. West Ham United (Eng): $209million
  17. AS Monaco (Fra): $202million
  18. Southampton (Eng): $183million
  19. Galatasaray (Tur): $177 million
  20. Inter Milan (Ita): $160million
  21. Aston Villa (Eng): $155million
  22. Newcastle United (Eng): $155million
  23. Atletico Madrid (Spa): $151million
  24. Napoli (Ita): $147million
  25. Ajax (Ned): $145million
  26. Stoke City (Eng): $140million
  27. Swansea City (Eng): $135million
  28. Bayer Leverkusen (Ger): $135million
  29. Sunderland (Eng): $134million
  30. Crystal Palace (Eng): $133million
  31. Marseille (Fra): $129million
  32. VFB Stuttgart (Ger): $121million
  33. Fenerbahce (Tur): $120million
  34. Celtic (Sco): $120million
  35. AS Roma (Ita): $117million
  36. VFL Wolfsburg (Ger): $116million
  37. West Bromwich Albion (Eng): $115million
  38. Lyon (Fra): $111million
  39. Valencia (Spa): $107million
  40. Benfica (Por): $103million
  41. Hamburg (Ger): $103million
  42. Leicester City (Eng): $102million
  43. Sao Paulo (Bra): $95million
  44. Werder Bremen (Ger): $88million
  45. Borussia Monchengladbach (Ger): $86million
  46. PSV Eindhoven (Ned): $86million
  47. Sevilla (Spa): $81million
  48. Corinthians (Bra): $79million
  49. Lazio (Ita): $78million
  50. Fiorentina (Ita): $76million

So how does Chelsea come above Arsenal?  Simply by investing heavily in its brand image worldwide.  Doing this makes the name more valuable, sells more shirts, and protects ever more against any naughty behaviour by the company.

Man C are doing exactly the same – working solidly on the brand worldwide.  It doesn’t have anything much to do with success on the pitch, it is about the power of its name, the perception, which in Man City’s case is aided by the clubs in New York and Australia that replicate its image.

It is interesting also to note the speed that the figures drop away.  Take another look at the figures around Arsenal:

  • Barcelona (Spa): $773million
  • Arsenal (Eng): $703million
  • Liverpool (Eng): $577million
  • Paris Saint-Germain (Fra): $541million
  • Tottenham Hotspur (Eng): $360million

The value of a brand however does not relate directly to its rating.  Real Mad and Barcelona are both rated AAA+, which Man U is not.

This table shows in big part that despite the resilience of brands to the world around them, the Coca Cola effect – or indeed the McDonald’s problem eventually catches up.  McDonald’s is a major problem, but it is sinking, because finally people are catching up on the difference between the “I’m lovin it” brand logo and the reality of what it does to your body.

Businesses can resist the Coca Cola effect (where there is in essence nothing there) and McDonald’s effect (when what is there is no good) for a long time – but not forever.  One only has to listen to the adulation poured upon Barcelona by the media to find it hard to believe that here is a club funded by Qatar, (currently being investigated for its appalling human rights records, the arrest of numerous journalists, and its involvement with Fifa in bidding for the world cup), while at the same time being banned from signing any player for the whole of 2015 for its treatment of children, to see the resilience of the brand.  But the brand is not resilient for ever.  In the UK Woolworths used to be a brand and a half.  Now it is no more.

Here are the brand comparisons in football over last two years.


3 Manchester Utd 1,206 739 AAA AAA

1 Bayern Munich 933 896 AAA AAA

2 Real Madrid 873 768 AAA+ AAA+

5 Manchester City 800 510 AAA- AAA-

7 Chelsea 795 502 AAA AAA-

4 FC Barcelona 773 622 AAA+ AAA+

6 Arsenal 703 505 AAA AAA-

8 Liverpool 577 469 AAA- AAA-

10 PSG 541 324 AAA- AAA-

12 Tottenham 360 248 AA+ AA+

13 Juventus 350 247 AAA AAA

9 Borussia D’mund 326 327 AAA- AAA-

11 Schalke 04 302 313 AA+ AA+

14 AC Milan 244 236 AAA- AAA-

20 Everton 228 121 AA AA+

24 West Ham 209 112 AA AA-

AS Monaco 202 A+

30 Southampton 183 96 AA AA-

17 Galatasaray 177 141 AA+ AA+

15 Inter Milan 160 152 AAA- AA+

Man U, Chelsea and Man City have huge levels of growth, Arsenal not quite as big but still significant – just look at how far in one year the Arsenal brand has gone in closing the gap on Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

There are some very odd figures here though – for example that Southampton as a brand is rated higher than Inter Milan.  Some brands are even reducing in monetary value – Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund for example.  Clearly English clubs are being helped by the Premier League brand.

The top three brands in the world are Apple, Microsoft and Google.  Football is a long way behind them, but there is real acceleration in the growth of English football brands at the moment.


Twitter us on Follow.  Or perhaps the other way around.  @UntoldArsenal.

11 June 1925:  Herbert Chapman became the manager of Arsenal, replacing Leslie Knighton who had been manager since the resumption of football after the first world war.   Chapman went on to become the manager who gave Arsenal its first Championships, and its first FA Cup triumph – and established the brand – before his untimely death.

18 Replies to “Arsenal are not as good as other people think.”

  1. Thanks, interesting article. What should Arsenal do to raise the Brand Value to nearer the United level and presumably our sponsorship income to similar levels.

    We already have soccer schools in many parts of the world, not sure if we still have formal links with clubs as we did two or three years ago. Should we follow the City route and look to have Arsenal branded and liveried clubs in other markets (South America, Far East, Middle East, Africa and Spain/Portugal perhaps) or are there other ways?

  2. Good article but I think the outcome is utter crap. I really don’t believe that Man city are a bigger brand than the likes of Barca, Arsenal , Liverpool or AC Milan and how can West Ham be in there above the likes of Inter or Galatasaray ?…. Who comes up with this rubbish ?

  3. IMHO, Arsenal’s marketing machine is not working as well as it should. Which means we have lots of room for growth.

    I believe Arsenal did a dis-service to its brand by choosing Puma as its kit supplier. We are missing the visibility & shelf space that Nike or Addidas can offer to a football brand (how many shops in your city carry Nike products, and how many of them carry Puma?). I was talking with a Nike employee, and she was telling me that they feel Arsenal was the one that got away and the one they miss most.

    We are also associated with 3rd rate brands such as Citroen (not a worldwide brand) which can’t be good for raising our brands image. We need to be associated with top rated brands (Porsche, etc…) if we are to belong to that elite club of brands.

  4. What can ARSENAL do??… Well Andrew, ARSENAL has a huge potential to grow as a brand. There are untapped markets in the world. One very big at that. INDIA. ARSENAL (compared to Man Utd, Barca, Real, Bayern, to some extent Liverpool) is literally non existent here. We should have official ARSENAL fan club/members events in places like INDIA and other countries. Not the usual pre-season fanfare. Just 2-3 players. ARSENAL branded (official) sports bars may be.

  5. @ Sammy,

    I think PUMA was a good decision. We are top shelf brand for PUMA. I went to PUMA store near my place. It has no rival brands fighting for space. There were ARSENAL branded bags, T shirts, footballs… Unlike when with Nike, we had to contend with ManUtd and Barca.

    And PUMA is a growing brand in places like INDIA. And ARSENAL can grow with it.

  6. I think that the building of the brand is only just starting. During the years of paying the front-end of the stadium loan we were getting deals that paid up front, and that hampered us.

    Now though, with the stadium long established and Arsenal back winning trophies I think the chances of good deals are much better.

    The growth over the last period analysed above is stupendous, and not just the fact that we won the FA Cup but the fact that we won it in such style will have helped a lot.

    It is all about the opportunity for growth. Barce and Real Mad have done everything they can, and they now find growth limited. We’ve only just started.

    I don’t know what happened to Arsenal in India. It was a plan I know, but somehow it never seemed to get going.

  7. One of d ways for AFC to keep raising d ARSENAL brand is to keep playing friendlies across the World. And while at a particular country or countries, their marketing dept., should aggressively sells d Arsenal’s merchandise to d people there. In this wise, AFC are still falling sort to officially launch their Arsenal brand in d African countries especially in Nigeria my country, where there are millions of Gooners. I will believe most of d merchandise in d Nigerian market are pirated ones. Arsenal planned to visit Nigeria 2 years back but called it off and headed to Asia. Now they will head to Asia again in their off season. This is good as Arsenal brand will get more rooted in Asia. But they should reconsider Africa and Nigeria in their next visits. The off d air 6 channels ABG used to show us BPL games @ #1000/month subscription. But now it is about #13000/month for one to view d BPL games on DSTV. STARTIME paid TV is the latest around @ #3400/m. Can d BPL games be switched to it to minimise cost for fans?

  8. Winning trophies does magic to a brand. Simple as that, and Arsenal have started doing just that!

  9. I think what we need is a prolonged period of sporting success on the field and the Brand will take care of itself. We need to win a few league titles and hopefully a Champions league title too and be in the mix for trophies.(FA cup is good, but not many people outside Europe are aware of its rich history and significance).

    As I recall, 6-7 years ago Chelsea’s valuation / brand rankings were always below Arsenal. I think the reason Arsenal’s ranking has declined is because of Chelsea’s successes on the field compared to Arsenal, even though the football they produce is dross! I don’t think it is down to any marketing strategy etc.

    Young audiences especially in countries like India are starved of sporting success, having a history of sporting underachievement, and tend to support teams who provide an instant gratification of wins. I think Arsenal missed a trick in 2007-08 when we led the Premier League table by about 5 points in January with a very young team when they had been written off before the season begin and Thierry Henry had left. I know there were stadium debts but if Arsenal could somehow found the funds for a striker and a defensive midfield (RvP and Flamini were injured and Adebayor had started to misfire), there was a good chance we could’ve won the league which would’ve been a great achievement with a young team playing brilliant football. That success would have no doubt spurred the team to further glory and perhaps convince some of the players to stay. Instead, Eduardo suffered a leg break in Feb 2008 and our season unravelled.

  10. Tony,

    Thanks for doing this. I don’t know if you did it in response to my plea yesterday but it’s good to read your take on it anyway.

    I read this with interest:

    “I think that the building of the brand is only just starting….Now though, with the stadium long established and Arsenal back winning trophies I think the chances of good deals are much better.”

    Because this is what Brand Finance had to say:

    “There is work to be done at Arsenal.” They take issue with Gazidis over his expectations and say “….they should be doing better”.

    They do praise our ‘sustainable model of working” but go on to say:

    “Ivan Gazidis had claimed that after 2014 and the negotiations of new deals, the Clubs new financial firepower would make it one of the top five Clubs in the World by revenue.

    This reality has not materialised. Arsenal remain eight in the World in terms of revenue and with the key kit sponsor and supplier deals accounted for, it is hard to see any further dramatic improvements in the near term…….having finally the freedom to negotiate new commercial deals, the brand is still nowhere near it’s more successful rivals in financial terms. All of this makes reaching a conclusion regarding the Arsenal brand very difficult.”

    Which seems to fly in the face of your assessment that the ‘building of the brand is only just starting’.

    They go on to say:

    “The squad is now arguably the best in the league and undoubtedly has the potential to win any and every trophy next year”

    Which tends to support your theory that the valuations have very little to do with what’s happening regarding the team, the players, or even what they achieve, and everything to do with touring the World.

    It seems just ‘turning it round’ on the football field is not going to be enough on it’s own, if we want to achieve the financial levels of our rivals. It seems we have a lot of work to do on the commercial side as well if we want to grow to where Gazidis expected us to be.

  11. Sammy, Although I agree with you about ‘Citroen’, it could actually work quite well for us now that they have been bought by the Chinese (along with Peugeot). I’m not sure if they’re marketing them there yet but if they do, that’s an enormous market.
    As for replacing them with Porsche, I don’t think the Germans feel it’s necessary for their ‘leading brand’ to pay to be an associate whereas Citroen do.
    The German market has a way of being involved with a club (like Bayern) where very few actually pay big money. Most of Bayern Munichs 150 associates pay quite a small fee or give benefit in kind.

  12. A while ago (week or two), I posted a link to an article on search engine optimisation (SEO) in football, and how Arsenal is doing in it.

    That is part of the newer side of branding.

  13. Jambug, as the team becomes more successful then more smaller associates (sponsors) will come on board. It’s impossible for a successful team not to grow as a brand but you/brand finance may be correct that it doesn’t end up growing a much as it should do. We’ll see.

    I’ve done a bit of travelling in Asia and have seen at least a couple of ManUre official outlets. I’ve never seen any Arsenal official shops out there and that definitely needs rectifying. I appreciate that for every 1 shirt the official outlet sells, more than 10 copies are sold, but it all increases the brand awareness and that drags brand value up.

  14. Manchester United have had 2 very poor seasons (for them). Failing to win anything and even failing to get into Europe at all once. They also posted a net loss greater than £200 million on transfers.

    Despite this the United brand grew by 63%, more than anyone else, including Barcalona who won the treble, to climb into first place with a brand value of £1.2 Billion.

    It seems failure is the new success !!!

  15. Jambug @5.53,

    Not at all my friend. It does not seem to me that failure is the new success. My conclusion from reading the story and the comments that followed is that the the whole story is shite. Apologies to Tony but this is nothing but high level speculation done in a manner that might not be different to those of the geniuses who gave us the 2008 financial market collapse and the Great Recession.

    The whole thing just looks too wrong to me. There way too many undeserved and poorly justified highs and lows. Whatever problem Barcelona might be having, there is no way they are beneath Chelsea and Man City. No fucking way! I don’t buy it. My (totally unsupported) suspicion is that the Man United American owners are behind this charade. They may be trying to sell off and looking for rubes to believe in the mythical invincibility of the Man United brand.

    Unsubstantiated, I know, but crazier things have happened before.

  16. Bootoomee

    “The whole thing just looks too wrong to me.”

    “Whatever problem Barcelona might be having, there is no way they are beneath Chelsea and Man City. No fucking way!”

    Exactly what I thought.

    The problem is, I thought, dismissing it all out of hands might just be interpreted as sour grapes, because frankly, despite everything, we come out of it not looking great(relatively).

    But as I pointed out regarding Man Utd:

    One disastrous season. One very poor season. £200 Millon+ lost in the transfer market. Looking like another £200 Million+ needed to get them back anywhere near the title.

    Yet there value increases by 65%

    Just doesn’t seem right does it……..UNLESS, it really is all down to the commercial deals and has very little to do with anything else, least of all what’s happening on the park, at least in the short term.

    Anyway, I have to agree it just looks all wrong to me.

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