Having his reputation torn to shreds by the media is not expected to hurt Luis Suarez’s popularity among publishers, still hoping to associate themselves with one of the most infamous figures in sport, writes Paul Allen.
His reputation off the football field might be in tatters, but Luis Suarez is still in high demand among companies clamoring to be associated with one of the hottest, if not controversial, sporting figures in the world.
If you gave Alf-Inge Håland the choice of tangling with Suarez or Roy Keane on the field, you wouldn’t have to wait long for an answer.
Roy Keane cut short the Norweigian’s career with a nightmare tackle in 2001. The only damage Suarez handed out was to his own reputation, and he’ll never live it down.
Håland would’ve chuckled after learning that Suarez was to receive a four month ban from the game thanks to his childlike actions. Roy Keane, however was handed out a meager three match suspension (which was later increased following revelations in Keane’s autobiography, that he intended to inflict the damage caused).
There is a lesson for the media in this: hype and hyperbole needs to be tempered with a dose of reality. Luis has some deep issues, there is no doubting that, but biting hurts him and those close to him more than any player on the pitch.
As the press continues to lambast Suarez, companies remain interested in the star in spite of his apparent fall from grace in Brazil.
24 hours after the Suarez received the ban, news that Poker 888 ended its sponsorship deal with Suarez broke. They were the first organization to terminate a contract with the footballer. However, before they cancelled the deal, who actually knew Poker 888 and the football star even had a deal?
In a stroke of genius the company cashed in its chips, receiving maximum brand exposure while no longer having to pay for the privilege.
Had they stayed in the deal, Poker 888 would have just been another company associated with the footballer. However, by being the first to sever their relationship it thrust itself into the public eye, receiving worldwide publicity worth millions. Savvy move.
As companies go, the likes of Adidas don’t need to pull stunts like that for attention. They know that the PR value of Suarez might have actually increased following the biting incident. Although the mega-brand withdrew all adverts featuring the player during the World Cup, they didn’t tear up his deal. They know he’s too valuable to do that.
Conversely, as the hype and controversy peaked, brands around the world were lining up to cash in.
As soon as his suspension was announced, Netflix used Twitter to plug their service: “Don’t worry #Suarez, four months is plenty of time to devour House of Cards. One bite at a time.”
McDonalds Uruguay followed suit with a “Hello @luis16suarez, if you are hungry come have a bite of a big Mac.”
PUMA, sponsor of the Italian team, climbed on board through Twitter with this: “Players look damn good in those PUMA shirts. Hard to resist taking a bite.”
The payoff for these companies was publicity that cost next to nothing, not to mention that they didn’t need to pay the celebrity footballer a dime.
But as long as Suarez publicly seeks treatment and is able to deliver the sublime on the football pitch upon his return, ensuring he resists the urge to take a bite out of opponents, brands will be clamoring to associate themselves with the superstar.
He may be seen as damaged goods for some brands, but the cold hard truth is that Luis Suarez is known in every corner of the world. Like it or not, when it comes to promoting a product or brand, he provides an irresistible lure that very few companies can resist.
Originally published in TheJournal.ie