Normal, unassuming people have been marginalised as sponsors pursue fan engagement, the objective of which is to encourage young men to behave like complete bell-ends.
Working theory: When a campaign references passion, it's creators have run out of ideas.
The modern fan is expected to bring something more to the party than quiet enthusiasm and deep subject knowledge; they must come ready to demonstrate their Passion For Sport™.
The key word here is ‘demonstrate’: because to be commercially useful, Passion For Sport™ is useless unless it’s externalised.
As the comedian Dara O’Briain puts it at the start of his act: “If you’re the sort of person who laughs on the inside, you’re of fuck all use to me.”
Sport is the medium, ‘act like a twat at the office Christmas do’ is the message.
The problem with Passion For Sport™ is threefold.
1. It’s a lazy cliché
Adding the ‘P’ word has become the perfect get out of jail free card for any witless campaign whose authors couldn’t be arsed to think of an actual creative idea.
This perpetuates the advertising industry’s long-held prejudice that sport and sponsorship is about doing, rather than thinking.
2. It encourages bullies
If you don’t turn up with your face painted, happy to form a branded human pyramid in the fanzone, you’re a boring old stick in the mud, not one of the lads, not with the #bantz. Whoever heard of someone being ‘quietly passionate’? What is this, 1975?
3. It gets cause and effect wrong
Passion is not what causes success. But success can cause a good feeling that in retrospect can feel like pre-determination.
In other words, it’s a narrative fallacy, and the media is a configured to perpetuate the myth.
We only interview people who were in charge of business when success happened.
Rather than tell the truth – ‘I’m smarter than you,’ ‘I’m luckier than you,’ ‘I work harder than you,’ or ‘I gamed the system to load the chances of success in my favour’ – wealthy business leaders have learned that it pays to sound humble.
So they offer up the seemingly meritocratic idea that it was their passion that drove them to be the top dog.
The message is a variation on the American dream: passion is democratic. You don’t have to be smart or rich to have it – just an insane work ethic and hope in your heart. Haven’t you seen La La Land?
The flipside of this fallacy is that it assumes that if you’re not one of life’s winners that it’s your own fault for not having sufficient amounts of the magic potion.
This is the message that is sent every time sport mistakes showing off for passion.
So take off that bloody hat and sit down.