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Using CRM to Secure a Sponsorship Renewal

Arsenal’s revamped Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system played a key role in Emirates’ recent sponsorship renewal with the English Premier League club.

Dubai-based airline Emirates’ five-year shirt sponsorship of Arsenal, signed last November, extends and deepens one of the strongest and most recognisable partnerships in sport.

The vast majority of the deal, which runs until the end of the 2018/2019 season and is worth £150 million, relates to the shirt rights but also includes the naming rights to the club’s stadium, a deal that was set to elapse in 2021, and has been extended for a further seven years until 2028.

Emirates and Arsenal’s partnership, which first started in 2004, has done much to raise awareness of the airline. The decision for renewal however was given impetus by the club’s revamped CRM system, which Emirates will use to launch more targeted marketing campaigns.

“Data on customers is important to us like it should be for any business,” said Emirates senior vice-president Boutros Boutros. “The price of media is increasing every year and having detailed data on customers allows us to work out where we spend our ad budgets and who we target as well as what markets we focus on through the club’s channels.”

“The work and investment in CRM capability and technology is an increasingly important part of the whole story of Arsenal and the kind of activity that brands are beginning to expect from an organisation like ourselves,” adds Charles Allen, Arsenal’s head of marketing who is driving Arsenal’s current CRM strategy.

“We were very keen to look beyond football when benchmarking against other organisations. As a football club we think we do things pretty well, but we look at Amazon, John Lewis and Sky Sports and how they operate across CRM, e-commerce and membership subscriptions for our CRM benchmarks.”

The activation of the club’s CRM upgrade has been two-pronged. Not long after Allen’s arrival to the club in 2010, the club embarked on its biggest ever customer research programme, carried out by the market research agency Flamingo. This research prefigured a complete overhaul of the CRM system by the club’s in-house consultant on the project, IBM.

“We want to change our conversation internally from ‘we think we know what our club stands for and what our fans and customers think’ to ‘we know this about our club and what our fans and customers think’”, says Allen.

So far the club has tapped into a limited section of its fanbase – stadium-goers and its membership scheme, of which there are 200,000 members – but for Allen the real opportunity for the club and its partners is in tapping into Arsenal fans worldwide to get them to interact with the club around their individual interests.

“We need to cluster fans in bespoke groups based on their interests and behaviour and anticipate what the next offer should be,” he says. “Events dictate the fans’ journey – from child dependency on parents, to university, start of career, first mortgage, children and so on.

“At the moment there is not a massive correlation between affinity and transaction, but as we get to know our fans better we will be able to better influence behaviour in this direction…leading to higher rates of conversion.” (Marketing, Professional Sports, Soccer)

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