THE NEW ROCK STARS
Football Players are this century’s Rock Stars: Thoughts by a publicist in the business
By Victoire H. Cogevina Reynal
Football players are this century’s Rock Stars. With their ready-made audiences of millions in every corner of the world, they hold the most bankable influence in the game. Strong, healthy and determined men now run the show? Ladies and gents I introduce to you the hottest marketing asset of the moment: the Celebrity Footballer.
From hard experience I’ve learned that not every player is endorsable. It takes a special mix of ingredients to create an effortlessly marketable character: Footballing ability, looks, personality and a ready-made online audience.
It is a known fact that Forward positions usually get the most press for their goal scoring or assisting abilities. They are the most expensive players on the field and usually the most marketable. A big reason for this is that teams spend so much money on them they want to monetize their image and therefore constantly make them the center of attention. Great examples are Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. In the MLS “Designated players” are constantly showcased on social media.
Furthermore, Center field and Defense positions are also important, however it is a chicken and egg situation; either the player has naturally grabbed the public’s attention therefore the team decides to work on his image, or the team invests marketing dollars to make him more interesting and the player banks it on social media. Gerard Pique has all eyes on him for being married to Shakira, Paul Pogba for making history with his transfer fee, and Arturo Vidal for that aggressive attitude and cool haircut.
Goal keepers are the most complicated characters here. This is because their likeablity is constantly fluctuating based on their performance. There are very few goal keepers that are loved through and through. Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, and Sergio Romero, just to name a few, are great examples.
If we were to talk about looks, then its safe to say that If football is a religion and there is a God, it would be David Beckham. In an era in which social media, followers and likes didn’t exist he proved to the world he was the most desirable marketing asset, thus paving the way for many of today’s footballers. We cannot deny his playing ability and successful career, however his looks probably sealed the deal. Remember those steamy Calvin Klein campaigns?
Additionally there is a very interesting case to be made for Ezequiel “Pocho” Lavezzi, who once upon a time gathered the attention of every Argentine woman alive. He became the hot fixture on the Argentina National Team causing sighs every time he appeared on TV. Pocho quickly after became the face of Argentina’s most coveted brand Etiqueta Negra.
As for personality, hands down, the most interesting ingredient. Football players can’t be generalized in terms of personality, but they all do share a similar journey of becoming a public persona and constantly receiving both love and hate messages from virtually anyone that has a smart phone. From experience, I can tell you that most players won’t accept anything else than a conservative approach to endorsement just because of what people will have to say about it in the future. Although frustrating for a publicist, it is understandable on a human level. Soccer fans are opinionated and their comments are often hurtful.
Somehow the most endorsable players have shown a common trait: arrogance. And the reality is that audiences eat it up. Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are great examples. If you don’t believe me watch for yourself, they both have their own documentary even though they haven’t retired.
In my personal opinion I believe this cockiness comes from doing what everyone told them they couldn’t. Its born and fueled from all the nasty comments they read on their social media and the thousands of journalist piecing apart their profesional careers as well as their personal lives. The way players react and deal with this can truly make or break their marketing potential.
Lastly, but most importantly, ready made audiences. In these modern days we could argue this is their biggest asset. It is a reality that their online influence directly affects the price of their contracts. Clubs and teams look for attention, that very desirable millennial attention and only a few players can bring the millions in. PSG is a magnificent example of how to carefully collect the most followed players on the planet and put them together in one team. As well as Real Madrid that not too long ago was doing the same by signing whoever happened to be the world’s most exciting, famous and handsome footballer (they famously opted against signing the buck-toothed Ronaldinho on aesthetic grounds).
The challenge lies when a player moves from club to club changing countries and cities faster than they can build their fan base. The content they upload needs to somehow be targeted and it becomes complicated when their followers are from Italy, England, Argentina and the United States. Same goes for the brands that look for influencers in the soccer industry, who do they chose and how do they know their targeting will be effective?
All themes to be discussed next month.
Thank you for reading!
Victoire H. Cogevina Reynal
Head of PR & Image