July 23, 2010

Soccer, Kids, and Nostalgia

Some interesting examples of sports messages aimed towards and/or involving kids today.  The first is from the Italian Serie A, where the top flight team Fiorentina (based out of Florence) has decided to forgo corporate jersey sponsorship this season in favor of the phrase "Il calcio e un divertimento," which translates into "football is entertainment/fun."

The team's nickname is "Viola," in reference to the squad's 
primary color - purple - as seen in the shirt above.

The team's vice president explained that the message is intended to "encourage young people to approach the game without taking it too seriously."  All in all, avoiding a corporate sponsorship - if even just for one season - is a good move in my book.  Reminds me of a couple teams who have eschewed corporate sponsorship in order to promote a good cause.  The biggest of these, by far, is FC Barcelona.  Beginning in 2006, the club has donated about $2 million per year to put the children's charity UNICEF on the front of its shirt.  It is the only logo to appear on the front of Barcelona's jersey ever

Perhaps the world's best player, Lionel Messi, and perhaps the world's best team, 
FC Barcelona, have partnered with UNICEF since 2006.

As a UNICEF ambassador, Messi recently visited Port Au Prince, Haiti,
on a goodwill mission.

Another example of charitable sponsorship by a soccer club comes from Aston Villa FC, an English Premiership squad that voluntarily placed the name of British children's hospice Acorns on their jersey the past two seasons.  In doing so, the team forfeited about $3 million in potential corporate sponsorship per season.

The British children's hospice Acorns, not to be confused
with the politically-troubled ACORN organization in the U.S.

Unfortunately, while Villa has decided to continue sponsoring the hospice, they've made a change in their jersey sponsorship for the upcoming season.  Their jerseys will bear the logo of "FxPro," a foreign currency exchange company.  The most unfortunate part of the change is that fellow Premiership club Fulham FC will also bear the FxPro logo on their shirts this season.

For 2010-2011 - Fulham on the left, Aston Villa on the right, 
bowl of soup not included.  I'm sure it looks good on you, though.

Finally, here is Sky Sports new commercial for its 2010-2011 coverage of the English Premier League season.  It's both endearing and, simply, good.

I would be more ecstatic if it wasn't an advertisement for SkySports, and thus Rupert Murdoch's ever-expanding fortune, but I think there is something more to think about here.  Consider the construction of the sport spectacle and how easily the genre is recreated in any format (or, in this case, parodied, perhaps).  Find slugs racing each other down an empty sidewalk and bring in announcers, slow-motion, helicopter cameras, and the like, and there you have it.

Even if that's not your cup of tea, you cannot deny the nostalgia dripping from the SkySports spot, emphasizing the myth of professional sports purity.  It's the kind of myth that we are constantly reminded of with regards to baseball in the United States, made especially plain by the Little League World Series, an event that combines America's desire for nostalgia with all of the trappings of a professional, commodified sports spectacle.  Thank you, ESPN.

Eerily similar to the SkySports advertisement, no?

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