ASK ALF-INGE Håland who he would prefer to tangle with on a football pitch. Would it be Luis Suarez or Roy Keane? The answer is obvious.
Back in 2001, Keane virtually ended the career of the Norwegian player with a horror tackle. The only injury Suarez dished out was one to his legacy, which will be forever tarnished.
So Håland must have had a wry laugh when he heard that Suarez’s childish behaviour would see the Uruguayan banned from football for four months. Roy Keane, on the other hand, received a paltry three-game suspension (this was later increased after Keane admitted in his autobiography years later that the damage he inflicted was intentional).
The lesson for a media that has exploded with hysteria is that a little perspective is required. Suarez needs help, as he obviously has deep-rooted problems, but his biting does more damage to himself and his family than to anyone else.
However, while the press has chastised Suarez, companies are still eager to cash in despite his fall from grace at the World Cup.
Indeed a day after the ban on Suarez was imposed, Poker 888’s brand was splashed all over the media. It was the first company to end its sponsorship deal with the player. The question is, before they announced this cancellation, how many people even knew Poker 888 had penned a contract with the Uruguayan superstar?
In one fell swoop the company cashed in its chips and maximised coverage of its brand while ensuring it no longer had to pay the player for the privilege of doing so.
If the deal had run its course Poker 888 one have been one of many companies connected with Suarez. However, when it was the first one to cut ties with the player it stood head and shoulders above the rest and garnered worldwide publicity to the value of millions. Smart move.
While the size of Adidas means it does not have to stoop to such shenanigans, even it realises that Suarez’s promotional value may have increased after the notorious World Cup incident. While the global mega brand pulled World Cup advertising featuring the striker, it did not go as far as ditching the player altogether. He is far too valuable an asset for that.
Indeed, as the controversy was at its peak, brands were champing at the bit to take advantage.
In the wake of the player’s suspension Netflix, in reference to the online video service’s political thriller, tweeted, “Don’t worry #Suarez, four months is plenty of time to devour House of Cards. One bite at a time.”
McDonald’s in Uruguay was next to jump on the bandwagon tweeting (in Spanish): “Hello @luis16suarez, if you are hungry come have a bite of a big Mac.”
Even Italy’s sponsors were quick to capitalise by tweeting, “Players look damn good in those PUMA shirts. Hard to resist taking a bite.”
The reward for all these brands was visibility at a low cost and the fact that they did not have to pay Suarez a cent.
But as long as Luis Suarez publicly undergoes treatment and continues to produce sublime moments on the pitch when he returns, while resisting the temptation to sink his teeth into the opposition, companies will be lining up to cash in.
His tainted image will not suit every brand, but for those who don’t mind being associated with flawed characters, the fact is there are few people left in the world who do not know who Luis Suarez is. And love or hate it, when it comes to promoting products and brands, that is an irresistible ingredient few companies can resist.