A chomp too far: Luis Suarez and the Real Time Advertising debate

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If there’s one major talking point to come out of this year’s Brazilian World Cup then it’s that bite. Uruguay’s star forward has again sunk his teeth in where they really don’t belong, causing a huge furore, but is this appropriate material for brands to jump on in the hope of grabbing the public’s attention?
The response to Luis Suarez biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini was to be expected. A four month ban from competitive football by FIFA, £66,000 fine, and the loss of 888poker sponsorship all topped off by outcry from the public, parents and pundits alike spells (another) reputation disaster for the player, who’s already no stranger to pitch-side scuffles.
Yet for all the shaming and condemnation, several fast-thinking firms were quick to exploit the situation. McDonald’s urged Suarez to take a chunk out of a Big Mac instead. And similar sentiments were voiced by Nandos, Snickers and Dominos. Meanwhile, Colgate recommended a swill of mouthwash ‘after grabbling a bite of Italian’, and Paddy Power suggested this photograph as used by Panini in this year’s World Cup sticker book was ‘bang up to date’.
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The list could go on, with Specsavers issuing a warning on the pitfalls of not being able to see properly, assuming Chiellini was mistaken for a cannelloni. And these are really just for starters, as the following images go to show…
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But is this really appropriate territory for advertisers to wade in on? Thanks to the demands of modern marketing there’s so much pressure on firms to react with events as they occur in a bid to outdo their rivals in the public conscious. It’s risky business, as is proven by the fact many of the PR fails we feature on our weekly Blagger’s Blog are the result of companies trying to get involved with current affairs, and falling down miserably thanks to a complete lack of judgement, or worse still the use of incorrect information.
But get this concept right and there’s no telling the reach your brand can achieve. When a company hits a campaign or stunt on the head in terms of timeliness, message and creativity people always remember the name. The question is, if we wouldn’t use tragedy and any other type of violence in the news as a Real Time Advertising peg, then why is it OK for a professional sportsman taking a bite out of a rival to form the basis for a marketing push? A chomp too far? We’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter via the comments box below.