Monday, 25 July 2016

How is the football superstar persona constructed in Convergent Media?

Throwback to my A Level days:

How is the football superstar persona constructed in Convergent Media?

“Stars are made for money purposes alone. Increasing the brand identity benefits the institution as they become a household name increasing sales in all of the media platforms they are in” 1(Dyer). The chief narrative focus of the FourFourTwo cover is the central image of the footballers Costa, Messi and Cavani who are positioned in a low angle medium long shot, subliminally creating a sense of aspiration for the target audience. Lionel Messi ranks highest in the visual hierarchy, as he is in the foreground. He has more global recognition than the other footballers through being instantly recognisable; therefore brand ‘Messi’ is reinforcing brand awareness by maintaining a strong brand identity. Whereas Diego Costa is living up to his Proppian archetype of ‘Villain’ by his facial code of gritted teeth, Messi, the Proppian ‘Hero’, has an indirect gaze with laser like focus on his quest.

There is low key lighting in FourFourTwo connoting enigma. There is an almost cinematic sense of drama, creating a hybrid of action and noir. The iconic Adidas boots and shirts are given the highest ranking, the footballer Cavani who is representing the brand Puma on Cavani’s shirt is being obscured by his own and Messi’s limbs reinforcing a subliminal bias towards this brand. There is a web address dedicated to the magazine which is thereby enhancing the reach to the target audience by inserting converging media connoting a ‘sense of interaction’ 2 (Blumler and Katz).

In reference to “Football in the new Media age” 3 there is an obsession with regards to celebrities (especially in the football industry) being used as commodities by various brands. A picture of Beckham scoring a goal is in the journalistic domain but “if he’s pictured with new boots or new clothes, then those are sponsored and he’s getting paid for the images used.” 4 (BOSE 2002). There is an increasing presence of footballers ‘being the brand’; a few examples would be the Argentine Lionel Messi or the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, they have exploited their own image rights to reap financial gains and worldwide acclaim. Their appearances in comparatively sophisticated magazines such as FourFourTwo attract a mass market of the social classifications A, B and C1, as well as being middle-aged, multiracial and male.

The mastheads typography further enhances Messi’s ranking by donning his name in bright urgent orange colour and enlarging the word ‘MESSI’ thereby signifying the importance of his persona.

In the publication of “Football in the New Media Age” Beckham’s popularity is being described as universally recognised, now that Beckham has retired from the game professionally, the footballer Messi is assuming the mantel from Beckham and perhaps has overtaken him as a player brand “He is one of a few players to transcend football and achieve popularity among non-fans as well as die-hard followers of the sport...In short, he is a marketing person’s dream.” 5 (Matthew Garrahan, 2002) Messi is using the same formula as David Beckham to grow and monetize his brand, by emulating the success of David Beckham; On the cover of FourFourTwo magazine Messi is given the highest ranking as he is at the top of the visually hierarchy thus citing his important to the game.

Messi wears Adidas boots as he is under contract to Adidas endorsing - connoting there is synergy between the player and the boots, this allows merchandising of mass media products to a mass market target audience, thus creating a ‘sense of identification’ 6 (Blumler and Katz) denoted by the question ‘Have you got the new boots worn by Messi?’ thereby connoting a sense of exclusivity.

The masthead ‘FourFourTwo’ connotes sophistication thereby appealing to an audience with high social classifications. The images of the players are superimposed over the masthead as such an iconic masthead is easily recognisable of the magazine therefore the brand identity is being strengthened by brand recognition. The word ‘starring’ following the players names suggests film star reverence. The stylish and slick typography is in Sans-Serif.
The demographic of the target audience of ‘Match’ would be in the social classifications of C2, D and E albeit drastically different from the audience of FourFourTwo it is still a Mass Market, multiethnic and predominantly male thereby conforming to the natural target audience of the football genre. Whereas, the price tag of £1.99 and a house style containing the colours yellow and red as the predominant colours which mimic the codes and conventions of a ‘’red-top’’ tabloid newspaper, for example the Sun newspaper connoting they share largely the same ethnicity, gender and social classifications. Moreover, according to the ACORN cluster which is formed of 15 different sub-groups, the group most likely to buy Match would be Council Estate Better-Off.

Match magazine has high key lighting connoting there is a sense of aspiration 7 (Blumler and Katz). The plug ‘Free England and Brazil Boomsticks’ gives an incentive to purchase the magazine connoting the audience are special, denoting no other magazine possesses this attractive offer thereby connoting exclusivity. Therefore the USP of Match magazine is the glamorous looking exclusives which aspire the target audience into a feeling of optimism. Furthermore their audience tends to become passive recipients to whatever products they advertise, giving more credibility to the hypodermic needle model 8 (Lowery & De Fleur).

Messi is not the archetypal centre forward – he is short and pacy- he has revolutionised the role in which strikers operate, his rise has been due to the performances of his football team ‘Barcelona’ domestically and in Europe, picking up a huge amount of trophies along the way – a formula for success in the marketing aspect of the club and its players, most notably Messi, he is thus the ‘Poster Boy’ of football as he demonstrates the true capabilities of a winner, furthermore demonstrated in the magazine cover which features his name in bold bright orange typography and he is on top of the visual hierarchy compared to others.

The brand identity of Puma is very strong, in spite of the subliminal and enigmatic nature of the brand logo. Moreover the use of backlit in the background creates a sense of elevation and of God like status. There is use of convergent media, specifically the social media hash tag of #STARTBELIEVING which is an imperative thus creating a sense of aspiration and interaction among the target audience (Blumler and Katz). There is an equal visual hierarchy among the footballers in this advert, although they have different nationalities – they belong to one globalised brand, Puma. The iconography of the footballers implies they are as big as film stars, they all are positioned like characters in the action genre of movies, the names of the footballers are displayed like movie stars therefore the audience can “feature they the share or admire with the star” 9 (Dyer).

In a Nike advertisement there is a subliminal message, surrounding the boots denoted by eight spiders legs connoting the football boots are as venomous as a spider further implying footballers especially strikers are as dangerous as spiders. Another subliminal message is the football being covered by the web created by the spider connoting the ball is in the net (web).

According to Richard Boyle the author of “Doing the Business?” ‘Football clubs are actively seeking to control their relationships with the media. Moreover, media coverage of football ‘stars’ has never been more extensive, as players such as David Beckham and Michael Owen seek to control, market and promote a particular image of themselves in a highly commercial market place’ 10. There is room for development in terms of the advertising and marketing of the image rights of very popular football stars, thus enhancing the prospect of a mass market audience.

The Sun newspaper with the headline: “Suarez bites back- he accuses English of a ‘witch-hunt’” 11. The masthead of this story appears to demonstrate his defiance and therefore portrayed as a loose cannon and does not care what other people think of him. Nevertheless, Suarez is the archetypal ‘antagonist’ 12 (Propp).

The tagline “He accuses English of a witch-hunt” demonstrates there is a huge sense of animosity for everything that Luis Suarez stands for. The target audience would be C1, C2, D and E in social classifications and would predominantly be male and white in ethnicity and middle aged, C1, C2 is understood to be the bulk of society therefore the target audience is a mass market.

Another headline by The Sun is “I’ve let down the fangs” 13 a pun on the word fans. Red top tabloid newspapers such as The Sun are infamous of gross exaggeration and bias. The Sun’s USP is wordplay and pictures- most notably snappy and short headlines accompanied by pictures that reinforce the narrative.

Undoubtedly the fall from grace that Luis Suarez had suffered in a four month match ban which includes all football related activity and a subsequent loss of endorsements from 888Poker have not dented his finances. His transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona in the summer of 2014 increased his wages substantially, demonstrating that he does his talking on the pitch and not in the field of marketing.

The magazine Match mimics the codes and conventions of the house style of the Sun newspaper. The typography tends to be in Sans-Serif for ease of reading. The reading age of the Sun newspaper is nine years old 15( and Match magazine clearly attracts the same demography as the Sun newspaper.
“Large brands are generally large in all demographics, small brands are generally small in all demographics” 16 (John Dawes, Brand loyalty in the U.K. Sportswear Market). The rise of Nike and Adidas as sporting brands has been meteoric: their combined share of the sportswear market is 56% so they are in danger of monopolising the market as Reebok, Umbro, Puma, Fila and Diadora have combined a market share of 44% 17 (Dawes).

Marc Gobe, a prominent marketing author says Nike “...[is] a good example of an emotional brand. It made sportswear accessible to non sportspeople with a brand story that inspired not just success but energy and determination” 18 (Dawes). The brand of Adidas has quite a large share of the total sportswear market in the UK and it hasn’t happened by coincidence: Adidas has been endorsed by the magazine FourFourTwo, the most famous advertisement in this magazine is no doubt ‘’All in or Nothing’’ 19.

According to Brand Loyalty in the U.K. Sportswear market A Classification Of Residential Neighbourhoods (ACORN) this is a ‘’sophisticated geo-demographic clustering scheme’’ 20 (CACI 2007) instead of being classed into different social classifications, the ACORN model 21 has 15 different sub-groups with ‘Council Estate Better-Off’ at the top with 15% of total sales in the sportswear market and ‘Prosperous Pensioners/Retired’ at the bottom with 2% of total sales. However, despite the differences in socioeconomic status the ACORN group ‘Council Estate High Unemployment’ contribute to 28% of their own brand market share in this group the same percentage as the group ‘White Collar/Better Off Multi-Ethnic’ therefore they aspire to appear rich.

There is a sense of ‘polygamous loyalty’ 22 in the general public – the idea of ‘’loyalty’’ towards a number of brands for instance a Belgian fan supporting Chelsea would be inclined to purchase a product from the brand adidas, as they are the brand partners of Chelsea, however Eden Hazard a Chelsea player who hails from Belgium personally endorses Nike so this is an example of how easy it is to purchase more than one brand in any particular football season creating a ‘sense of emulation' 23 among football supporters (Blumler and Katz). For instance in the cover of Match magazine there are many different brands being advertised and therefore it entices the audience into buying more than one product from more than one brand. There is no brand – not even Nike- that receives ‘’loyalty beyond reason’’ 24 from its user base (Dawes).



1. Dyer’s Star Theory
2. Uses and Gratifications Theory by Blumler and Katz
3. Football in The New Media Age by Raymond Boyle and Richard Haynes
4. BOSE 2002
5. Matthew Garrahan 2002
6. Uses and Gratifications Theory by Blumler and Katz
7. Uses and Gratifications Theory by Blumler and Katz
8. Hypodermic Needle Model by Lowery & De Fleur
9. Dyer’s Star Theory
10. Football in The New Media Age by Raymond Boyle and Richard Haynes
11. The Sun- Thursday 26th June 2014
12. Propp’s Narrative Structure
13. The Sun- Thursday 26th June 2014
14. The Sun- Tuesday 23rd April 2013
15. See A Voice, 2010
16. John Dawes, Brand Loyalty in the U.K. Sportswear Market
17. Dawes
18. Marc Gobe in John Dawes, Brand Loyalty in the U.K. Sportswear Market
19. FourFourTwo Magazine June 2014
20. CACI 2007
21. The ACORN Model
22. Polygamous Loyalty according to John Dawes
23. Uses and Gratifications Theory by Blumler and Katz
24. Dawes