It’s 4am in some parts of the world, 10pm in others; the scene is almost exact. Masses flock, dressed in some sort of garb, to “the ceremony”. Devotion, loyalty, hardcore commitment, un-shunted belief; all sentiments running high.
What sounds like “a call to prayer” or a summoning to a mass, is actually a World Cup football game. Time zones are obsolete, differences are dissolved, and spirits are heightened.
Like blind faith, antithetical to reason and rationality, football inspires a system of thought, feeling, and action that is shared by a group and that gives the members an object of devotion and a code of behavior. Loaded with zeal and conscientious devotion, it’s also a frame of reference by which individuals relate to their group, and in some cases, their universe.
It’s not new that the advertising world has compared football to religion, however what is interesting is to extract the trigger points of why, as well as to catch the way brands are beginning to enhance this association.
The allure of blind faith:
What makes the games so insatiable? So intoxicating? When asking people why they chose certain teams, their answers tend to be rather wafty. Over-emotional yet nonsensical expressions of 2014 include “I’m British so I support England of course;” “Germany, they play the best;” “We love Messy so we love Argentina;” “I’m Spanish so I cannot watch the World Cup anymore this year;” “Argentina just won, and well Argentina is kind of part of Chile.”
There isn’t really much dialogue, introspection, nor questioning to it. Similar to blind faith that comfortably allows the masses to participate passionately in a cause, without needing to explain themselves, football inspires an overpowering sense of loyalty that is, for the most part, inexplicable.
The winning formula: Adrenaline, passion, and an overzealous feel good factor, that is so easy for anyone to access.
“The global football fan”
No matter what team one supports, the behavior of the football fan is almost exact. Online, extracts from a Facebook wall depicts the same voice coming from 2 very different walks of life. 42-year old female American banker Sandra expresses “Gooooalllll. Argentina! Boom!” while 18-year old Daniel from Germany writes “0-1: TOOOR! 0-2: TOOOR! 0-3: TOR! 0-4: SORRY! 0-5: ACH DU SCHEISSE.” A simple browse online confirms that the examples of this are infinite.
At the sports bars themselves, the trend continues: In a small bar in London during the World Cup Semi Finals, screams of joy could be heard from an elderly woman when Germany scored, coupled by frantic dance moves from a young hoopla dancer standing next to her. Then, in unison, men, women, and children, stood up and screamed goal each of the 7 times Germany scored.
Across cultures, ages and lifestyles, football manages to inspire the same behavior.
There is no distinct party line or rhetoric between the teams, nor differentiating behavior between say, a German football fan and a Brazilian football fan. This fascinating uniformity of behavior indicates the power of football as a brand.
Thriving on blind faith, rather than the teams themselves, the entire discourse of the World Cup is the brand.
Brands have already attached themselves to the notion of football as the new religion. In the 2014 games, the Brazilian beer, Cerveja Foca, positions itself as the “holy water.” Relating watching the matches to the freedom one has to practice his/her own religion, the brand encourages that each supporter should be allowed time off from work to watch the game of their choice. It cleverly creates a community based on the values of freedom, expression and devotion, acknowledging the football fans’ blind faith factor, as well as their tendencies to choose any and all games to watch.
While the Brazilian beer has entirely captured the blind faith concept in their campaign, branding has the possibility to take this much furthur. The next step is to transform this into a concept where value and meaning can be attached, enlightening its loyal following. Injections from brand stories that cleverly weave into the key behaviors that inspire the “global football fan,” yet somehow awaken them as well.