Q&A with Arsenal Football Club's Anne-Lise Johnsen

We sat down with Arsenal Football Club's Youth Marketing Executive, Anne-Lise Johnsen, to discuss a great matter of topics: football, brand loyalty and the key difference between marketing to kids vs. young adults. Catch Anne-Lise Johnsen at Youth Marketing Strategy London 2016 next March, where she will be speaking on the 'How to win in the battle for brand loyalty' panel. In the mean time, read on for some incredible insights:

We sat down with Arsenal Football Club's Youth Marketing Executive, Anne-Lise Johnsen, to discuss a great matter of topics: football, brand loyalty and the key difference between marketing to kids vs. young adults.

Catch Anne-Lise Johnsen at Youth Marketing Strategy London 2016 next March, where she will be speaking on the 'How to win in the battle for brand loyalty' panel.

In the mean time, read on for some incredible insights:

Supporting a football team tends to be inherited from family, friends or who is at the top of the league right now. What are your main objectives when engaging young fans?

Our main objective is to create unique Arsenal experiences for both our young supporters and their families. By giving them a memory of a life time and making dreams come true it allows us to show the magic of Arsenal and the benefits of being a Junior Gunner. This is my goal every day when I come to work, creating experiences that these children will want to share their way with family, friends and on the playground, something they will be proud of. I believe if we always keep that in the back of our mind then we’ll engage more young fans every day.

When building the Junior Gunners community, what are the most important marketing channels?

Obviously I’m very fortunate in my role as I get to work on an exciting product that allows me to have a lot of fun with our marketing channels. The experiential aspect is key for us.Not only are we creating a fun match day for everyone, but our monthly events are all especially designed with the young fans in mind.

However, we are aware that we can’t reach everyone through experiential, especially as football is truly an international sport.  Digital and social content is as important to us as our experiential offering. This is an area we are spending more resources on and we are currently working on something for our young fans which will be amazing.

To what extent are you marketing to kids or their parents?

We are doing both really. It’s all about finding the right balance. It can be a challenging one as the tone of voice obviously differs between kids, teens, young adults and parents.

Our focus is to create an offering that applies to all parties which is why it has to be targeted. We recognise that for parents it’s all about clear information, offering them a safe and educational environment for their kids whilst putting smiles on their kids’ faces.

For young fans it’s all about creating a fun, playful arena where they can make new friends and have a great time. This also applies to teens, but obviously their activations are more mature and acknowledges the actual game more.

From YouTube to Facebook to Snapchat, how do you juggle your social strategy and which of these channels are standing out for you?

Arsenal is very strong on social media and we have a presence on many major channels. These are aimed at the wider audiences and include all types of content that engage our fans globally.

As part of the youth strategy we acknowledge that there is a need for us to have certain channels dedicated to Junior Gunners only, which we have three of; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each channel has its separate strategy, but overall they are for us to engage with young fans and their parents on Junior Gunner benefits, such as competition announcements, video content, the launch of events and much more. We also find that parents often ask us questions about the membership on these channels which we of course do our best to answer, or at least point them in the right direction.

In terms of channels that are standing out, the two I am paying special attention to is YouTube and Snapchat. These are currently club channels, and not specific to Junior Gunners. The club launched our Snapchat channel in November to great success which is all about giving fans exclusive behind-the-scenes access to match day and player content. Our youth audience is obviously the key target for this so it has been fun to be part of that process.

“By creating a community where your users have a voice, you can create loyalty much easier; and loyalty is key.”
— Anne-lise Johnsen

Have you noticed any big differences when marketing to younger children compared to teenagers?

The differences between young children and teenagers is certainly substantial but in my experience so can the difference between a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old be. This is something I don’t think is recognised enough in youth marketing.

We have recently conducted a large piece of research on 14-19 year olds – and it was very interesting how they expressed their disappointment that they don’t get a more tailored offering from brands as a whole

With this in mind, this season we have implemented a few new initiatives that has allowed us to cater for these different age groups much better.  We have been offering them more unique experiences as well as listening to what they want from us as a brand, hence the research piece we did.

For U10s it’s very different, and often when you address this target audience you speak to the parent at the same time. In May 2014 we performed a large piece of research, aimed mostly at U12s, and one of the key insights was the importance of family and how they appreciate brands that cater for them. This struck a chord with me and is something that has helped us improve our offering and ultimately our results.

What can brands in other sectors learn about loyalty from sports teams?

Sports marketing is all about creating a community for our fans and for anyone who has an interest in the activity you promote. We enable our fans to create and share experiences with their peers and parents love to talk about what their children have done. This is a key area for us that I believe many other brands should really look to focus on a bit more.

By creating a community where your users have a voice, you can create loyalty much easier; and loyalty is key. Typically a child chooses who to support when aged between 4 and 7 years old, and once that choice is made,  it’s all about keeping them interested.

What other youth brands do you admire when it comes to marketing to 16-24s?

I love Redbull as many others do, as well as the apparel brands Nike, Adidas and Puma.

And finally a few fun questions…

What’s been the best moment of your career so far?

I can’t pick between getting my dream job at Arsenal from being accepted into the Marketing Academy. Both times I cried, so two very key moments in my life.

However, at work, it’s not a specific project that stands out, but more all the smiles on young fans faces when they experience Arsenal and Junior Gunners.

Favourite app? Why?

It’s not very fashionable or “young”, but I love Citymapper!  It’s real time, easy to use and helps me when I get lost in London which happens all the time!

Something few people know about you?

I was a young and promising football keeper in Norway, but had to give it up due to a serious knee injury that still affects me today.

What are you most looking forward to at YMS?

Meeting others in the industry, sharing my experiences and I hope people realise that sports marketing isn’t too far off the general industry.

Finally, what we should have asked you that we didn’t?

What is the favourite part of my job; meeting fans at events! It always makes me realise that what I do, does really make an impact on people, even if it’s just football.

You can catch Anne-Lise on Twitter at @annelisejohnsen.

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