A new starter for the Arsenal marketing team arrives at the office. It’s 0830 in the morning, she’s armed with her coffee, enough stationary to stock a Rymans and a can-do attitude. She’s excited to start what promises to be a wonderful adventure.

The lift doors open to the usual arrangement of white resin-covered desks, double screens and ergonomic chairs. About half are full.

She stops in her tracks, unsure of her next steps. She hasn’t been designated a desk yet and so she waits at the reception desk, which is currently unpopulated.

Then, a man briskly walks toward her from the back of the office. His arm is pre-outstretched in eagerness. The giveaway though? His rictus-like grin.

“You must be Susannah? Hi nice to meet you I’m Bryce and I’m the Global Technical Lead for Digital Communications and External manifestations of Marketing Opportunity. No time to waste, tick tock and all that. Sorry that you haven’t got time to put down roots so to speak but that’s the way it goes in marketing right? Time wasted is money burned…”

Bryce didn’t stop speaking, but Susannah had already switched off. She recognised pomposity and marketing bullshit when she heard it.

“…and that’s why we look through the fish-eye lens at our marketing collateral to get a helicopter view of all target markets. So our meeting this morning involves all sectors and divisional leaders, as well as thought leadership and Return on Investment Planners. Safe to say it’s a biggie, so I guess it’s sink or swim for you, newbie…right?”

Susannah smiled a watered-down smile at Bryce and followed him toward a misty-glass walled room. He opened the door and they entered. The entire room was dominated by a huge, oval table. Dotted all around the perimeter were chairs and sat in them were a collection of white men in suits of differing dark blue and grey.

Upon her entry, they all stopped talking and looked at her. She smiled and waited.

Bryce broke the silence.

“Morning gents. Here’s Susannah, our new Digital Content Auditor and Communications Optimiser. She’s eager to get started. Gents, be gentle with the fresh meat!”

He guffawed loudly and the room snorted in the laughter you expect when you first meet someone in an awkward first instance.

There was one spare chair and she sat down. She decided she would take action instead of letting things pass her by.

A man in a navy blue suit and a darker blue tie started to speak.

“As I was saying, because the last kit launch was up by 65%, we at Kroenke Sports Division recommend an alternate kit launch in two months – with a view to having a range of training kits, three matchday kits and three limited edition kits, designed by Vivienne Westwood, Oswald Boateng and Versace.”

Dark grey suit number one then spoke “Agreed, We have data from the last three NFL Rams kit launches that indicate merchandise launches to offset on-field results help buoy fan expectancy and optimism on social media by at least a quarter.”

A murmur of agreement, often heard in the Houses of Parliament, rumbled around the massive table.

Grey suit number two then spoke, “Profits have continued to stay afloat, even offsetting the loss of European income. If we then double the amount of merchandise and limited edition merchandise, we can look forward to a continued uprising in ROI…”

A man in a darker blue suit then spoke “Exactly, we have designs for a range of matchday pyjamas, influenced by the works of Salvador Dali, that we will strategically place in the marketing editorial calendar for 2022. We foresee a bring-back of at least 15%.”

Another grey suit piped up, “And with our plans for a collection of Arsenal pottery wheels, craft paints and scrapbooking accessories, we can continue our plan to convert The Emirates stands into advertising revenue opportunities, maximising volume space in the stadium…”

Susannah then chose her moment to speak up.

“Sorry, erm, hi everyone. Did you mention that you plan to change seating into advertising space at The Emirates?”

There was a silence that hung in the air. All suited heads had swivelled toward her vicinity.

She carried on, trying very hard to maintain eye contact despite the looks of confusion.

“I have to say, the fanbase that you plan to launch these multiple merchandise campaigns on? Your actual target market? They really won’t appreciate being forced out of their seats.”

A few snickers of laughter appeared in the air.

Another grey suit spoke.

“Hmm, there were shared opinions in the last few quarters, but with projected profit margins only positively reinforced, we can continue the upward trajectory of Arsenal FC as a global leader of sporting business.”

Nods of approval were vigorously shared.

Susannah shook her head.

“Erm, I know this is my first day but I have plenty of marketing experience and especially in the sporting world. And using the target market as a cash cow to milk mercilessly will lead to a shrinking of that very target market. This is a terrible idea. And to continue to launch merchandise at them? It adds insult to injury.”

The men all stood up as one, in unison. It looked like they shared a hive mind, such was the synchronicity.

When they all spoke at the same time, the chills up Susannah’s spine grew to icicles.

“Susannah, what you must realise is that soccer is not led by fans anymore. What the pandemic has taught us is that stadium revenue via tickets used to be the driving force for profits. What we now know is that advertising and merch are the clear drivers for profit. So we will continue these plans because the evidence tells us that it works…

Susannah took a few steps backwards, toward the exit door…

The one-voice continued…

And any obstacle to this roadmap will be met with a swift retribution. We will not let anything stop us. It worked in the NFL, it’ll work in the EPL and eventually… the world.”

Susannah wheeled around to the door but was met by a bearded, tall figure. She recognised the face.

Josh Kroenke spoke to her in a hushed tone.

“Now then Ma’am, why don’t you sit down and listen to the rest of our marketing strategy? I’m sure you’ll come round when you hear about our amazing opportunity to corner the home furniture market…”

The next day, Susannah was absent from the office.