It’s a source of constant amusement to colleagues that despite apparently ticking many ‘bloke’ boxes, I have absolutely no interest in football and therefore no idea of what’s going on in the world’s most-loved sport.
It takes a lot for something football-related to catch my attention, so when two things do in quick succession - as has happened in the past week - I’m more surprised than anyone.
Which got me thinking - as a football ‘outsider’ far from the target audience, what was it about these ideas that got me hooked?
Heineken's clever copy
First up is this much-acclaimed social post from Heineken.
Now, given I only just about grasped the notion of what the Super League was (it's about money, right?) and didn’t know Heineken were sponsors of the Champions League until someone explained it to me, I was starting with pretty much zero context.
Yet despite that, the simple art of good copywriting and finding a universal truth meant it resonated with me.
I don’t need to understand football to understand that we’ve all made bad decisions when we’ve had a few too many chilled beverages, so with a simple bit of humour this rises above being an ‘in-joke’ which can only be understood by fans to something that yes, even I can get and smile at.
Storytelling from FIFA
The second football-related creative got me in a very different, and far more complex, way. Step forward EA Sport’s new FIFA advert.
Seeing it ‘live’ on TV I initially mistook it for a new supermarket ad. It instantly did ‘family’ and ‘community’ and seemed to be leading to a heart-warming finale with a younger sister / older brother tale at its heart.
Then suddenly I’m into WTF territory as real football footage is intercut with in-game FIFA footage (me totally missing the Hamza Choudhury cameo, not knowing who he was until afterwards) and I realise I’m watching a part-real time, part-virtual overview of a Midnight Ramadan League game.
All which resulted in an ‘I wasn’t expecting that’ moment, with me instantly Googling the ad to understand what I’d just watched.
Some online digging later and it started to make sense. The winning ad in Channel 4’s annual Diversity in Advertising Award, it was made to highlight the lack of British Asian representation in professional football - arguably a pretty niche subject for someone who knows nothing about the issues in football.
Given I am not the film’s target audience in any way, why did it capture my interest?
1) It felt genuine. I later read that it had been filmed in real family homes in Birmingham, and this is immediately apparent.
2) It gave me a real insight into a different community. The fact that the Midnight Ramadan League even exists is a great reminder that we don’t all live the same lives to the same pattern.
3) It was super-targeted to its audience. The director, Bassam Tariq, has called it an ‘unapologetically Muslim’ ad. But far from alienating me as a viewer who is not part of the Muslim community, it interested me more and made me want to learn more. A sure lesson for all of those client discussions around ‘needing to appeal to the masses’…
The end goal?
So what do these two very different takes on football-focused creative have in common, which meant that they both managed to engage someone who doesn’t care about the sport?
For me it’s that good storytelling can take the consumer beyond the subject matter.
That by appealing to genuinely universal emotional triggers - humour, family, community - to tell personal stories in an unexpected way, we can engage audiences who, on the face of it, would otherwise have no interest in our brand or product.
And that we shouldn’t be afraid to tell stories that may seem too niche for fear of losing the attention of a broader audience, when in fact you may very well bring them on board by doing just that.