Explore: Football and celebrity

Explore: Football and celebrity

This Case Study/’Explore’ Exercise is linked to the ‘Who pays, who watches?’ Case Study on Broadcasting Rights and the EPL.

Global media forms, especially live TV coverage of matches from the English Premier League, La Liga in Spain and Serie A in Italy, plus the EUFA Champions League, has helped make celebrities of certain leading players who have also begun to feature in celebrity gossip. This works through astute marketing of their ‘narratives’ and of products associated with them, as well as of their actual performances in matches. Where the narrative involves a celebrity from another medium, such as music, cinema or fashion, the results can be very lucrative. (Apply, for sports stars now, the principles outlined in the ‘Debating advertising, branding and celebrity’ case study ‘Brangelina’ in  MSB5, as well as short case study material on ‘the Beckhams’ in MSB4 pp 323–324).

Explore celebrity issues

The sports writer Iain Spragg gave a list of the ten top football celebrities in August 2010:

  • David Beckham
  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Lionel Messi
  • Wayne Rooney
  • Kaka
  • Thierry Henry
  • Roman Abramovich
  • Jose Mourinho
  • Diego Maradona
  • Ryan Giggs

Source: http://soccerlens.com/top-10-football-celebrities/52452/

Spragg makes a case why each of these men might have become a celebrity. But what do you think the list tells us about the commercial aspects of contemporary football culture and how the international exposure of these men has been exploited?

  • What kinds of stories are associated with them in the popular media?
  • Do they have celebrity partners and how are these relationships exploited?
  • The list features four players and ex-players of a single club. Is that relevant?
  • Two of the men in the list were not well-known players of football, why do they feature and how can the changing financial structure of the game explain their presence?

Check out the career of Cristiano Ronaldo as a celebrity bolstering brands in these YouTube clips:

The first advert suggests how close, now, are the worlds of male celebrity, sexualisation of the male body, and football stardom.

You may like to compare it with:

  1. Mulvey's account of ‘the male gaze’ in 1940s–1950s Hollywood cinema, discussed in MSB5 Chapter 4 embedded case
    study ‘Representations and gender’. See also Chapter 11 on celebrity and advertising.
  2. the classic 1986 Levis’ ‘Laundrette’ ad (on YouTube), especially the ways that the half clothed male confidently deploys his gaze, even when he is the object of others' looking.

Ronaldo's prolonged ignoring of the maid in this ad has clear connections to class, money, status. She seems invisible to him. As a contrast you might like to explore the celebrity status of Samuel Eto'o the most highly-paid African footballer. See the news report for a different perspective on football celebrity. Or, in a similar vein, see the statement by Emmanuel Adebayor (a player whose high transfer fees and wage demands have attracted criticism).

Finally, you might want to consider a rather different kind of sports celebrity who, within his own sport and his own country, is arguably more revered by fans than any footballer: Sachin Tendulkar.

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