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Thursday Cannon Fodder: hold your nose

Arsenal announced a new commercial partnership today. Prime Hydration owned by YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul is now the official hydration partner of Arsenal Football Club. I don’t know what was wrong with water. Water has always served me well when I’ve been thirsty.

I don’t have any issues with KSI, or at least I don’t have any issues that I’m aware of (he says, as a hedge against milkshake ducks). And to be fair to KSI, he is a lifelong Arsenal fan and seems genuinely excited to partner with the club he loves. UPDATE: not an hour after publishing this piece, I’ve found out that KSI has also created some wildly objectionable content.

But Logan Paul is not the type of person I want my club partnering with. At best, he’s a douchebro that embodies toxic online masculinity and all of the negative things about the creator economy. He’ll do pretty much anything for content and engagement, which has led to some extremely morally questionable videos / topics. A quick Google search will fill you in if you’re so inclined.

On the other hand, Logan Paul is “just” a bad dude. He’s not, say, a nation-state with a questionable record on human rights like, oh I don’t know, Rwanda. We also know that Logan Paul exists, which is more than you can say about some of the shady gambling websites and crypto firms with which other clubs have partnered. It’s a sorry state of affairs when we’re reduced to “oh, at least he’s not [insert other horribly bad thing].

In a perfect world, or even simply a better one, clubs like Arsenal wouldn’t have to enter into odious partnerships to keep up with the oil-soaked money flying around the football world. But that’s not the world we live in. It’s an arms race. If you don’t add to your arsenal (pun not intended), you get left behind. You can’t bring an Eddie Nketiah to an Erling Haaland fight.

We’ve said for years that Arsenal have lagged behind their competitors in terms of maxing out partnership revenue. Manchester United have had an official [everything] partner for years. Manchester City users partnerships to launder money from their owners’ bottomless coffers to the club (okay, we don’t know that’s what happens, but come on, they’ve got sponsors for everything, too).

There is some merit, something noble about not slapping the club logo on everything you can reach with an Arsenal sticker to make a quick buck, but at the same time, there is a happy medium that the Gunners have long been on the unhappy side of. Maybe this is the start of Arsenal doing more.

And in all of this, we, the supporters, kinda get left behind. I’m not going to stop loving Arsenal because they’re working with KSI and Logan Paul. I really don’t like the Visit Rwanda partnership nor am I thrilled the kits say “Fly Emirates” on the front, but those haven’t been dealbreakers for me, either. I’ve accepted my own hypocrisy. I still support the club even though not everything Arsenal does is consistent with my morality.

For me, it helps (somewhat) to use this platform and Twitter to periodically voice the fact that I think some of Arsenal’s partnerships suck. Supporting Arsenal under protest of the bits I don’t like eases the burden of that conflict. But there may come a breaking point. In the end, it’s down to each one of us to decide what we’re okay with and what we aren’t.