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When football fans appear in adverts

Updated: Feb 7

Football Fans

Why does advertising get football fans wrong so often?  

There's a Brexit angle here, something to do with the distance between the people creating content and the people they are describing.

Football is famously described as the game of the people, which when filtered through a London ad agency's lens often comes out as the game of 'those people’ and the sport is part of the cultural safari being undertaken by the media and marketing industries in to the heartlands of ‘real Britain’.

This often involves a high-profile celebrity venturing into the darkest parts of our country, or Swindon, whichever’s nearer.

This is a worthy attempt to ‘understand and empathise’ with the people time forgot, who populate the imaginations of advertising creatives and documentary film-makers.

This 'real Britain' is what Vice brilliantly parodied as full of ‘honest van drivers, snarling staffies, and neon-streaked takeaway windows’. They live in ‘estates left to peel and decay, the vacant pubs that used to bristle with life. The Sun-readers, the confused former-Labour voters, the unemployed factory workers.’


When you start with such a flawed TGI-inspired notion of football fans, it’s no surprise the output goes astray and it explains the growing appetite for the more authentic-sounding perspectives offered by the likes of Copa90, Arsenal Fan TV or Ball Street.

But it’s not just football that comes out wrong.

Sports marketing is a sea of clunking clichés, most of which are at least two decades out of date.

Golf is a shorthand for middle management, chinos and self-satisfaction, whereas the identikit rugby fan is the inverse of the football stereotype, and no less patronising: overgrown public schoolboys decked out in Hackett and bright orange brogues.

With this as the starting point, rugby marketing has evolved into a strangely pompous affair.

From the BBC’s Six Nations idents to many big brand campaigns, you can’t move for stirring Shakespearean speeches to the backdrop of classical music, with Ian McGeechan going full Henry V.

It’s as real as a football fan with a rosette and rattle.

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