Op-Ed: How Auba's Contract Broke New Ground on Social

24 Sep 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

With Chelsea splashing out on the likes of Kai Havertz and Thiago Silva, Gareth Bale heading back to Spurs and James Rodriguez popping up at Everton, the social feeds of Premier League fans have been littered with clever, quirky, and inventive announcement videos over recent weeks - all aimed at driving excitement. 

This kind of pomp and fanfare on social media is often reserved only for transfers, and is rarely put on for mere contract renewals. But the resigning of captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang to Arsenal might be more important than any other transfer the club will make, and so - breaking with tradition - the Gunners set about to do things differently. Here, Mark Gonnella, Arsenal's Media, Communications and Community Affairs Director, discusses how the announcement of Aubameyang's new contract broke new ground for the club on social media.

It’s been a turbulent time for us all in the midst of a pandemic and football is in no way immune to this. We’ve been fortunate enough to get matches played behind closed doors but that has meant we are missing out on the essential ingredient which makes our game so special – the fans.

Opportunities to connect with our supporters around the world are always precious but even more so in this time. So when our club Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was poised to sign a new three-year contract, we wanted to make the most of the opportunity and mark the moment with our fans in a special way.

Working with ‘Auba’, his team and our media, communications and brand teams we decided to break the mould on player announcements and handed over our social media platforms to our Captain. This was  not to just announce the signing, but importantly to share the moment with our fans and share why he was committing to this special club.

We have more than 85 million followers across our channels globally, and we knew this announcement was a special moment for the fans, the club and Auba himself. We wanted to do something that challenged the conventional way of contract announcements that was authentic to the player and hit the right note for our fans and the club. 

Auba shared the news on Arsenal’s social media channels from the pitch at Emirates Stadium to a live audience of more than 250,000 fans across Instagram Live, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, the Arsenal app and Arsenal.com. The moment was also streamed in our flagship store, The Armoury, surprising unexpecting shoppers with the breaking news.

Since it was streamed live, more than 3.2 million people have watched the announcement across live and on-demand platforms. The live announcement built on the relationship Auba shares with the fans away from the pitch and reflected his vibrant personality and his own use of his social media. It was really important to Auba and to us that these things were captured authentically. Thanks to Auba’s input and commitment to making this happen, the hard work and creativity from some brilliant people, and the support of Instagram, we created a memorable moment of excitement for our fans that we could all share together.

Team-mates commented in the Instagram Live chat which made the event even more compelling for fans tuning in and an insight into the close bond within the squad. Auba’s close friend and strike partner Alex Lacazette, and Arsenal legend Ian Wright, joined the live conversation sending their congratulations. It was great to see other members of the Arsenal family - including fans Romeo Beckham and Jack Whitehall - watching and continuing the story after the live event had finished.

The event produced some powerful statistics. Across the 15th, 16th and 17th September the Auba signing content increased our average daily engagements by 761% on Facebook and 637% on Instagram in comparison to daily average engagements on the same platforms during the 2019/20 season. After an overwhelmingly positive response from fans, our retail operation also experienced a significant uplift in sales with ‘Aubameyang 14’ shirts in the immediate period following the announcement. It was the news fans had been waiting for.

As a club we pride ourselves in having strong and regular dialogue between the club and our fans, especially during these challenging times. Fans can’t attend games and many people’s lives have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

It was an opportunity to use the power of football and the Arsenal name to bring people together in a moment of excitement and joy.  We know it won’t happen every time we sign a player, but it was a privilege to do things differently and engage our fans in this special way.