I’m getting a bit cheesed off with all the advertising/sponsorship shenanigans at the World Cup, and I’m not even there. The idea that you can only buy tickets using the sponsor’s credit card, that food like McDonalds and drink like Coke can somehow be an official partner of a sport, all seem to indicate a world gone mad, but all that is eclipsed by the fact that you can’t enter a stadium wearing a rival sponsor’s attire: Hundreds of — one report suggested more than 1,000 — Dutch fans had to watch the Ivory Coast game in their underwear after stewards ordered them to remove their orange lederhosen.
The story, as far as I can work out, goes like this. The idea is the brainchild of a Dutch brewery called Grossbrauerei, which produce a beer called Bavaria. The brand marketing manager is one Peer Swinkels (“Bavaria is beer with guts, for men with guts”), who has launched several elaborate ploys to market the beer. One involves, er, sponsoring a motor racing event, along with a “Burning Rubber” Gala Night. (Event organiser: “We assure you that the name of this gala night is not a joke”). Another involved relaunching the career of Albert West, a slightly over the hill Dutch singer in towns with the word “West” in its name — Amsterdam West, Rotterdam West, Utrecht West, Leiden West, Hengelo West, etc: (“This sort of subtle humour is always combined with down-to-earth realism in the Bavaria-campaign. Albert liked the idea. He can laugh at himself. That is what makes Albert such a nice guy.”)
You had to be there, I guess.
Anyway, the lederhosen. This is an inspired idea and goes to the heart of some already controversial sponsorship over the most important item at the Cup: the beer. The lederhosen, you see, sported the name of Dutch brewery Bavaria, which is not the official beer of the World Cup. (Anheuser Busch’s Budweiser is the official beer.) The lederhosen are orange, carry the regulation braces, as well as a tail. They come free with a 12–pack of Bavaria, and have become something of a cult item among Dutch fans, who wear orange from birth, although there are reports that they are just being handed out for free too:
Briliiant. You get your product into the stadium and onto the world’s television without having to pay a dime. As a marketing ploy they are somewhat less subtle than the use of an aging Dutch rock star but they do deserve some credit: taking the mickey out of those German beerfests, selling a beer called Bavaria, right in the heart of Germany. And, to boot, embarrassing the U.S. beer partner Budweiser, who like other sponsors paid between $45 and $50 million for the privilege of having only their brand on display. In fact, Bavaria has already been making trouble: Heineken, the official sponsor of the Dutch national team, ordered fans to leave their lederhosen outside the ground at a friendly game against Cameroon. (A Dutch court has since ruled that fans should be allowed to wear the trousers, apparently, although this won’t wash in Germany.)
This explains why stewards are ordering fans to strip. FIFA spokesman Markus Siegler: “Of course, FIFA has no right to tell an individual fan what to wear at a match, but if thousands of people all turn up wearing the same thing to market a product and to be seen on TV screens then of course we would stop it.” The issue might be particularly sensitive because Anheuser Busch has its own problems, being forced by longstanding trademark issues to settle for merely Bud brand (not the full Budweiser brand, which is in dispute in Germany) in return for allowing local brewer Bitburger to sell its beer in unbranded cups outside the grounds.
Peer, of course, sounds suitably outraged but must be loving it. Officially, this kind of activity is appalling and the offline equivalent of subdomain spam, but so much more imaginative. At the same time it raises lots of interesting dinner party discussions about the rights of the individual against the rights of a sponsor (if I chose to wear those pants and wasn’t paid to do so, then does it constitute advertising, and should I not be allowed to wear what I choose so long as it does not appear to be a deliberate effort to advertise?); what constitutes a group, whether orange is an acceptable colour for a national soccer team, and whether people should even be allowed to wear lederhosen. T