Venkatesham on Asian expansion, commercial deals and new signings

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Last week, Arsenal’s managing director, Vinai Venkatesham, was in Singapore for a couple of conferences and to network with Asian commercial and business leaders about potential partnerships with the club.

As part of the trip, he went on Bloomberg to discuss how the Gunners plan to grow their fanbase in the region.

Here’s a transcript of his interview.

On the importance of the Asian market…

Asia is critical for Arsenal. We think a third if not more of our fans come from Asia. As a club, we’re all about delivering that to our fans. Asia is a really, really important market. We’ve come out here on pre-season tour regularly, have lots of sponsors in Asia and do a lot of charity work out here as well.

On competing with rival English clubs…

We’re fortunate that the Premier League is huge popular in Asia and there are lots of clubs competing to get interest from fans. For us, at Arsenal, we’re really focused on not just the numbers of our fans but how we can engage with them closely, learn more about them and then be able to communicate with them in ways that are relevant to them.

On commercial deals…

It’s all based around the size of the fanbase. We’ve got a huge fanbase here in Asia. There are three things we focus on. Asian brands in Asia that want to get bigger in Asia. Brands like Ganzberg [Beer] who we did a partnership deal with recently. Companies in Asia that want to get bigger internationally, so brands like Konami. And global brands that want to focus in Asia, brands like Emirates with whom we have global partnership deals. It’s really around those three principles.

On it being a problem to monetise the potential of the Asian market…

I wouldn’t agree that it’s a problem. We have a huge fanbase in Asia, as I mentioned. The way we drive revenues, all to reinvest in the team, is via the broadcast rights that are sold in Asia and through the commercial partners that we sign. I’m not sure I’d agree that clubs like Arsenal are challenged to try and drive revenue from Asia. I think that we are doing that. The purpose of it is to reinvest in the team. We want a virtuous circle spinning.

On how much money has been raised in Asia to go towards the team…

It’s hard to exactly quantify because I guess you would focus on our sponsorship income and our broadcast revenues. But it’s significant. It will be in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds.

On signing new players in January…

We’ve just been through the transfer window in the summer, what we call the main transfer window. We were very aggressive in that transfer window signing a number of new players that we’re very excited about, predominantly targeting young players that we believe can grow and develop with us over future years. We’ll see when January comes, although I’d say we always treat the summer window as the more strategic window and the January window being the one where you’re more tactical, maybe responding to an injury or another demand. Really our work is done in the summer and we’re really pleased with what we did in the summer.

On whether the club now needs to add a defender…

As we’ve said, we’ve been very focused over the summer. We made some defensive reinforcements signing David Luiz from Chelsea and Kieran Tierney from Celtic. We’re looking forward to seeing how those players progress and do during the course of the season.

On how Arsenal plan to expand into China…

The potential in China is huge. The game is only growing there and if you look at the fan numbers Arsenal had from 10-15 years ago through to today, the numbers are growing really rapidly. We work in China in a different way compared to other markets. We have a specialist team that are focused on China that are producing content on digital platforms, specifically for the Chinese market. We’re really making sure we’re putting the most relevant content we can in front of our Chinese fans. It’s also a market we’ve visited on tour with our first team a number of times. A lot of our commercial partners are active there as well. We look at China very positively and feel there is a huge potential to grow even further in the years ahead. It’s not just China, we also see huge potential in India as well.

On making a big name Asian signing…

The signings that we look for are players that are going to make the biggest impact on the pitch from a sporting perspective. We don’t look into the nationalities when we look at the players. It’s all done for sporting reasons. That’s always the lens we look at when we’re signing players.

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HelderHughes
HelderHughes

Does anyone else when they hear the phrases such as “marketplace” and “expanding fanbase” just think back to that beautiful pitch at Highbury, Ian Wright dancing through defences, Ray Parlour charging round the field, THAT Andy Linighan goal and wonder how we got here?

LEFT08
LEFT08

If there was an award for comment of the year, this would win by a mile.

ScotchEggsRule
ScotchEggsRule

Agreed, a great comment.

Me So Hornsey
Me So Hornsey

I hear what you’re saying, but, to be fair, Man Utd were doing all that global fanbase marketing stuff during all those years to become the world’s richest club whilst we were just clinging on to JVC and ‘staying classy’.

It’s 20 years late but we’re just trying to catch up to stay alive.

HelderHughes
HelderHughes

Yeah, expansion was just a matter of time and Wenger was miraculous in turning us from a good side with rich history to a richer side with richer history. And teenagers now will be saying in twenty years time “back when I was growing up all the home games got played at the Emirates, not in Shanghai”

But when my father first walked me up to the terraces at age 5 (9th March 1991 – Cambridge United FA Cup 2 – 1) (My mum wouldn’t let me go until then because of “disgusting language”) I felt like I immediately belonged to the club. That our chromosomes had somehow merged and I was, albeit a small part, an accepted memebr of this club.

The first game my son Leo came to was this weekend against Villa. I looked to him as we walked through the brand driven airport lounge, through the polite fans and up to the subdued stadium and saw no flicker of belonging. No flicker of home. Just a lad being taken to some other corporate gig. Hey, he’d been to Thorpe Park, how different was this?

Ashish Mann
Ashish Mann

Brilliant and magnificently sad and true.

Pakgooner
Pakgooner

Memoirs of a geezer

WCGooner
WCGooner

I can 100% relate to this. I now live in the US whee the sporting events are literally dictated by sponsorship, merchandise and ad breaks.

Me So Hornsey
Me So Hornsey

Hahaha nice one, I like it, seeing as we’re reminiscing lets compare notes, my first ever match was in 1984, a 3-1 win against the unstoppable juggernaut that was 80s Liverpool. I was an 8 year old standing on a portable stool my dad had brought into a completely overcrowded North Bank full of scary long haired, loud men and I remember distinctly thinking I was going to die each time the crowd surged when we scored. Grown, drunk, swearing men taking a (literal) piss around me and I even remember a young Paul Davis being racially abused by one of our own for a misplaced pass, which particularly bothered me even at that young age.

I took my youngest to his first game last year v Wolves at home and while I understand what you intimate regarding belonging, passion, corporate etc, I can honestly say his experience was infinitely preferable to mine.

My point is, my first experience didn’t put me off as the buzz I got from the day had me hooked from then on, but looking back in time a lot of things can get rose tinted and not everything was great ‘back in the day’.

Andy
Andy

You know, I think that might have been my first game too. Did Talbot score a free kick?

MeSoHornsey
MeSoHornsey

Yes, he scored a brace actually and a goal from Tony Woodcock.

chepetin
chepetin

Good one. I took my son to his first match three years ago, against Bayern Munich, when we used to play in a tournament called the Champions League. It was the 5-1 loss, Walcott gave us hope in the first half, we lead 1-0 at HT, then Koz got sent off in the 2nd half and it ended we lost 10-2 on aggregate. My son 5 at the time and was thrilled to finally see a match live. The next day one of my colleagues – Sp*rs supporter – said that it must have been a shit night. In fact I said, it was one of the best nights of my life because I got to see things through the eyes of a kid again, and because mine couldn’t stop talking about the match for 2 weeks.

HelderHughes
HelderHughes

I’m not trying to be revisionist. Or nostalgic. There are so many things today that make our supporting experience a wonderful thing. I mean, we have sites like Andrew’s, live vlogs, twitter and insta accounts, podcasts and journalists who update us on the recovery time of a promising 15 year olds reoccurring hamstring problem. We have the means to connect with a plethora of fans who can’t make the games, or haven’t even been to North London but follow us with all the passion of a lad born in Whittington hospital.

But when we moved from 38,500 to 60,000 we didn’t just get a little further away physically. We lost that feeling of being able to reach out and touch our team. And as a result our football club became a little more diffuse and a little more apathetic. And golly aren’t we seeing that on the pitch as a result.

DB10s Air Miles
DB10s Air Miles

This a thousand times mate! You echo my same thoughts… I sobbed like a baby at that final home game in the red currant shirt. Haven’t been to the Emirates for nearly 10 years….cost me £90 the last time I went and just doesn’t have anywhere near the same appeal and magic that Highbury had. COYG

Richie

Lest we forget that Wenger saw the potential of the Asian market almost 20 years ago when he signed Junichi Inamoto on loan from Gamba Osaka. Minimal outlay, thousands of shirts sold.

Matty T.
Matty T.

So no signings in January then, barring an injury crisis.

Amusa
Amusa

Arise Chinese Park Chu-young!
We shall chase your agent around to sign you and then loan you out after a single Carabao cup game.

Richie

He was South Korean I believe?

Cliff Bastin
Cliff Bastin

Son defecting confirmed.

Joey Jojo Jr Shabadoo
Joey Jojo Jr Shabadoo

Say Asia one more time. I dare you, I double dare you Mothertrucker.

YoungFabregas4
YoungFabregas4

Reading this comment before the article ruined it for me but I laughed!

And_Unai_Said...
And_Unai_Said...

????, how did you ever get to reading that particular comment before the article and other comments ???

Francesc
Francesc

Only motivation for Carling cup is to deny the domestic treble nonsense to whoever it is

Nketibag
Nketibag

Mourine will still claim it

Fatgooner
Fatgooner

Here’s a great way to “expand the Asian fan base”: produce a winning team.

Simple.

kaius
kaius

Does anyone else get slightly irritated when Vinai is answering football questions about signings and what gaps might be missing in the team? It would be like Raul talking about “Arsenal’s revenue growth in the North American market” or something (in fairness Raul is good at avoiding these commercial issues).

Yes journos will ask what they wanna ask – but without a clear division between Arsenal FC and Arsenal PLC the whole operation feels a bit plastic.

Francesc
Francesc

Chill man

Nketibag
Nketibag

No. Id rather he said it how it is and answered the question. Instead of dodging and spewing crap right into our face like Gazidis used to.

TotsOfJack
TotsOfJack

Too bad there’s not much interest from big clubs in the African market; one of the biggest (if not the biggest) source TV revenue.

Jose
Jose

Very smart guy

Kaleja
Kaleja

I Wish they would discuss about coming to africa one day, in particular East Africa, to be more accurate Tanzania the land of Kilimanjaro, In fact since i started supporting arsenal only two teams came in my country Everton, 2 years ago and Seville this summer and they played our local league champions, and it wasn’t a tour parse it was because they share a sponsor so one game arranged.
So please my beloved club, i urge u to come to africa we may not be a rich as asia or populated but we are passionate.

rohit
rohit

That’s a lot of Asia…

Moxrex
Moxrex

Aligning myself to club philosophy “Make profit from Asian market”.

Suggestion # 1: Hire a manager who is able to get the most marketable player in the squad (Hint: Ozil has more followers than our club)

Suggestion # 2: Start winning

Suggestion # 3: If you can’t win at least play beautiful football

HoldenontoArsenal
HoldenontoArsenal

Calling for Emery to more clearly have his team express his style while telling him to play Ozil is a contradiction of monumental proportions. I am a big big Ozil fan. I also long for a clearer understanding and implementation of Emery football. I believe he is trying to implement a more refined style one could refer to as ‘ heavy metal played by an orchestra ‘ ….refined yet continual harassing with flowing, biting attacking’. This type of style demands a very very cohesive and technical defense. It also falls apart when a more subtle refined player is involved. IMO Premiership football, especially, has evolved in a manner that does not suit Ozil. I believe that along with his high salary is why no one has jumped at the chance to acquire him when he is clearly so gifted and at the same time so underutilized. I do believe we have a roughly 50% chance of currently comprising the individuals capable of working together as a world class defense when fit. As a final thought, to all the fans booing our players and manager…”may the fleas of a million camels infest your armpits prior to giving birth on your scrotum!”

Moxrex
Moxrex

Anyone taking over a team tries to implement whats best for the team not what is best for the style. One has to understand the limitations and then modify what is available and add what is needed. So, if after more than a year we stand at the same point then something is not okay.

I feel bad for you, I mean you must have gone through extreme pain to wish something like that to fellow gooners

N10
N10

Whatever Vinai