Football’s not so perfect a pitch

The recent trademark ruling against Arsenal, allowing a fan to continue selling unofficial merchandise, is probably wrong and will I hope be reversed on appeal.

However, this ruling, combined with the mighty Manchester United announcing a sharp downturn in merchandising revenues, confirms our view that football clubs are not brands.

Heresy, I hear you cry. Of course a football club can be a brand – look at the loyal following. But how can they be? What unique associations are conjured up in our minds when we hear the name?

Man Utd probably means football success, but what happens when success declines? Surely, the days of supporters blindingly buying up products with the club’s name on it are over. OK, a shirt is useful and associates you with a club. But what does Man Utd add to the tomato ketchup or the tricycle it brands? Nothing whatsoever.

I know that many European football teams are beginning to embrace the concept of marketing – presumably part of their task is to turn endorsement into brand. Is this possible? They have many channels open to them and have become expert at retail, e-commerce, TV broadcasting and the newly emerging t-commerce, spectator management, etc. But how you define a sustainable difference between Man Utd and Arsenal in the age of global supporters’ clubs where provenance has no influence is hard to imagine.

Needless to say, I would love to have a go.

Kevin Thompson

Managing director


London WC2

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here