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Posts Tagged ‘Serbia’

Could sponsors hold the key to stopping racism on the terraces?

October 22, 2012 Leave a comment

So Lance Armstrong (under)stated recently that he’d had a ‘difficult couple of weeks’.

Just to recap. In the last fortnight or so (and despite his protestations of innocence), Armstrong has gone from being a much lauded athlete who overcame serious illness to dominate one of the world’s toughest sporting competitions to a discredited drugs cheat and stripped of all his titles.

A ‘difficult couple of weeks’ by anyone’s standards.

Since the evidence against him grew and former team-mates spoke out about his role in the doping culture in the US Postal team, the position of sponsors such as Nike has shifted. Where initially they stood by their man, they ultimately decided to cut the relationship, citing that he had “participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade“.

It’s one of the inherent dangers of sponsorship.

While your endorsee is sweeping all before them you are associated with success and glory. But as Tiger Woods sponsors found out a few years ago, if that star misbehaves your brand is associated with someone getting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The news that cycling has/had a doping problem is both unsurprising and depressing.

Unfortunately, the same can also be said for the experiences of the England U21 side in their recent play-off in Serbia.

Racism in football

Having been subjected to racist chants throughout the game, things came to a head at the final whistle when Danny Rose was sent off for kicking the ball into the abusing crowd and punches were thrown as players and coaching staff jostled their way towards the dressing rooms.

Racism is a blight on society. It exists in the UK and while it is not tolerated in public arenas, the economic downturn hasn’t helped our natural tendency to tribalism when things are tough.

For nations that haven’t experienced the levels of immigration of other ‘races’ that the UK has, attitudes to people with different colour skin are not as liberal. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t all plain sailing and painless for us to get to where we are.

Terminology that was common just a couple of generations ago is now taboo. TV shows of the 1970’s wouldn’t even be considered now. And footballers in the UK used to have to run the gauntlet due to their skin colour as recently as the 80’s and indeed, incidents are still being reported in 2012.

None of this excuses what happened in Kruševac and nor does it excuse the lenient approach footballing authorities have taken with racist incidents in the past. In a multi-billion pound industry, fines of tens of thousands of pounds have little impact.

FIFA and UEFA are keen to cite the power of football to change society when awarding tournaments to countries like Ukraine and Qatar but plead impotence when it comes to topics like racism.

The natural indignation in England has lead some to suggest that we should pull out of international tournaments to make a point. Such an action would most likely be met with champagne corks popping in Nyon and Zurich, and would only serve to further dilute our voice in the global game.

The Serbian FA could have offered UEFA a get out of jail card. A statement recognising the monkey chants, apologising to the FA and footballing family and a clear plan of action to ensure it never happens again would have enabled the games rulers to give them a slap on the wrist.

Yet the Serbian FA refuted clear evidence of racist chants and stated that any claims to the contrary were malicious.

FA of Serbia absolutely refuses and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium in Kruševac. Making connection between the seen incident – a fight between members of the two teams – and racism has absolutely no ground and we consider it to be a total malevolence.

Had they sent a letter saying ‘Fuck you! We did nothing wrong and we’re not changing!’ their attitude couldn’t be any clearer.

And in doing so they batted the ball firmly into UEFA’s court making the question very clear.

Do UEFA believe there was racism at the game and if so, do they consider it acceptable?

Driving behaviour change

Behaviour change and persuasion are all about understanding what motivates of the people you are trying to influence. This means putting your own motives to one side for a moment.

In other words, if we want UEFA and FIFA to impose stronger penalties for incidents of racism we need to understand what influences them.

And let’s be honest, British indignation has never kept them awake at night.

Much higher on the list of priorities are the many sponsors who provide a huge chunk of the money that powers the multi-billion pound football industry.

Just like Nike and Lance Armstrong’s sponsors, FIFA and UEFA’s backers (which include brands like Coca-ColaMcDonalds and Adidas) have a rare opportunity to make their opinion on an unsavoury topic clear.

No brand wants to be associated with racism and upsetting the sponsors is something the footballing authorities do not tolerate. Just ask Niklas Bendtner who was fined £80,000 for showing his Paddy Power lucky pants during EURO2012.

Compared to the fines given to national associations for incidents of racism, it seems rather excessive.

Let’s face it, for all the anger,  griping and T-Shirt protests in England we simply don’t have the clout to demand action.

The sponsors are the ones with real power to influence, and maybe only a rebuke from the people who line their pockets will make finally FIFA and UEFA start taking racism in football seriously.

PR own goals leave Germans feeling cold

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

As if their continued efforts to save the Euro weren’t giving them enough of a headache, recent German attempts to sell cars and excite football fans have also failed to hit the mark.

As any Englishman will tell you, the weather has a nasty habit of messing up the best laid plans. From BBQs to Wimbledon, the rain can be relied on to appear when it is least welcome. Similarly the winters of 2009 and 2010 were unusually harsh just when retailers most needed people to be able to get out and spend their money.

So while we applaud their innovative thinking we can also sympathise with German agency Sassenbach Advertising who have seen their clever weather themed idea turn into a icy nightmare.

Seeking a “wind and weatherproof idea” to support the launch of the new Mini Cooper Roadster, they took advantage of the “adopt-a-vortex” scheme run by Berlin’s Free University and named the current high pressure front sweeping across Europe ‘Cooper’.

All was going swimmingly until ‘Cooper‘ dropped to -33 Celsius, disrupted transport across the continent and claimed over 100 lives.

The campaign also involved buying a low front to be called ‘Minnie’ later in the year that one hopes will be less destructive.

A statement from BMW confirmed that while they had bought the names they didn’t have control over when they were used and that clearly, they regretted any loss of life.

While the whole episode has been highlighted as a bit of an gaffe, BMW and their agency haven’t done anything wrong and the €299 price tag for naming the weather seems cheap even though the publicity it has provoked isn’t what was planned.

The same can’t be said for German football giants Bayern Munich who upset their fans with an ill thought out launch of an app.

Last week, as the January transfer window was coming to a close, the club told their 2.7m Facebook fans that they had just signed a new striker who would be announced exclusively via a Facebook app in around an hour.

Naturally, the announcement set social networks alight. To set the scene, Bayern had recently lost to Borussia Mönchengladbach and seen target Marco Reus sign for rivals Borussia Dortmund.

As the clock ticked down, fans debated which star they’d be seeing at Allianz Arena with Manchester based duo Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov among the suggestions.

However when the announcement was made it became clear that the club had misjudged things enormously.

A live stream with Markus Hörwick (Comms Director),  Chrsitian Nerlinger (General Manager) and Philipp Lahm (Club Captain) announced that the new star player was actually the fan themselves, the 12th man of the squad.

The app then showed fake press announcements, mock interviews with star players welcoming the ‘new player’ and shirts with the users name.

What could have been a great value added experience resulted in a terrible user experience, compounded by the app crashing, with fans venting their anger on various social networks.

The press, who had also been kept in the dark showed great schadenfreude, gleefully spreading news of the failure which ended up trending worldwide on Twitter.

Within three hours the club had received over 5,000 complaints from angry fans and was forced to offer an apology.

Both brands will survive their difficult week. Mini because they didn’t do anything malicious and Bayern because disappointment is all part of being a football fan.

Let’s just hope their fiscal policies have better results.