This is what corporate tifos look like.
Last Saturday’s draw between the Seattle Sounders and Tottenham Hotspur didn’t mean anything. Goals were scored, penalties awarded, flamethrowers threw, but it was just a big meaningless exhibition. Hell, the ECS didn’t even make a tifo. But EA Sports did. The video game giant produced and displayed a corporate tifo that was, in effect, a big commercial for the upcoming release of FIFA ‘15.
Soccer is slowly being Americanized. I guess it make senses, as we embrace all the ritual of the beautiful game: singing, scarves and tifos, a little ‘Murica was going to rub in. The global tradition of soccer already subjects fans to brand names on jerseys and along the end boards. Now in the States we have gigantic commercials in the stands. Every Sounders jersey says XBOX, so the game is already both an athletic display and a marketing opportunity. But I can accept the branding on jerseys as a trade for no commercials. I love how soccer puts the game first. Hell, they could slap “TastyKakes” on the Philadelphia Eagles or “Starbucks” on the Seahawks if they cut the all TV timeouts from NFL broadcasts. This seems a fair trade for brand names on jerseys, but we get nothing for ads in stands.
As ads go, it was stellar. If you want your ad seen by 55,000 members of a key demographic (and by even more on ESPN), this is pretty effective. Unfortunately our high attendance figures and cultural clout must be attracting the moneymen. But using unassuming fans up in the Hawk’s nest for a display of marketing also plays into the “Seattle fans as corporate whores” trope. Seattle is the vanguard of soccer’s assimilation into the pop culture of a major American city, and the rise of the tifo-as-commercial is an inevitable consequence.
I guess we should get used to the seeping of consumerism and corporate culture into soccer. At least it was an ad for a soccer video game and not McDonalds. I get that video games are the key to getting the kiddies into soccer. I heard Keith Olbermann’s rant. He wanted soccer to get the red, white and blue makeover, but I am sure he wasn’t expecting this. Video games may be the gateway drug for the rise of our domestic league, but at what cost?
I realize I am a hypocrite as I dream of shoveling money into the registers at the Sounders’ pro shop for third jerseys and other cool swag, but corporate tifos? So disingenuous. We’re here for soccer. We’re here for sport, spectacle and supporter culture. Supporter culture is grass roots. It isn’t piped in music or cheers led by a jumbotron. People make soccer and there should be no co-opting this for some company’s bottom line.
It seems I’m answering my own question from my last post. When more money enters the league we get corporate tifos.