Twitter madness: AS Roma’ Head of Digital Paul Rogers on Southampton inspired video
In one week, the football transfer window will, as is tradition, slam shut.
And for anyone who has been following the incessant rumours and pious outrage at drunken-sailor-spending and unsettled players, that’s probably one week too long. But aside from the usual transfer sagas and never-ending gossip, this summer has been marked by a new phenomenon: the over-elaborate transfer announcement.
When one football club pays over the odds for a player, the new climate demands that the rest have to follow suit. And in the same way, as soon as one club gets creative on their Twitter account, the rest have to do the same. Social media news feeds precipitated an arms race of elaborate kit launches and transfer announcements, and football Twitter turned into a festival of over-the-top attempts to be cool.
The whole thing became very silly very quickly. In a whirlwind few weeks, the genre was created, deconstructed, and then parodied. In the history of human culture, that usually takes years – decades, even. But football Twitter doesn’t have that kind of time.
This week’s Digital Sport Insider podcast features Paul Rogers, Head of Digital at Serie A giants AS Roma. He talks, among plenty of other things, about the summer’s social media madness, and Roma’s integral part in it.
Rogers picks up the story of how the transfer window went from being a hub of social media creativity to a frenzy of silliness, and what it was like to be a football club in the middle of it:
“We signed a player, Pellegrini, and we decided to do something with FIFA the game and we had him playing and shot it quite nicely – I thought it was quite a classy looking announcement video,” he told Dan McLaren on the pod.
“It was picked up a bit in the English press, by the Daily Mail and a few others who said it was a really cool, innovative way to do it. And we did that for a number of reasons: we recently launched an esports team and we know that loads of our fans play FIFA, and other clubs were also doing quite nice stuff. But then it started to feel like, clubs are starting to take themselves a bit too seriously here. And we just thought, ‘how can we disrupt this? How can we just ridicule this whole stuff that’s going on.’ Because it started to get pompous. You started to get media teams within clubs just trying to be too clever.
“So we just thought, let’s just make them bad, let’s make them terrible – in fact, let’s make them worse than anyone could make anything!
“So then we signed Cengiz Under and that was the first one where we made this YouTube style video. I remember seeing players Roma had signed and if you google them, you’d see the ‘Welcome to Arsenal’ video or the ‘Welcome to Chelsea’ or whatever. As soon as they’re linked with a club, someone just goes out and makes a YouTube video saying ‘Welcome’ to whatever club they’re linked with and they’re always awful music and awful graphics and stretch out one shot into like 10 different replays. So we thought, ‘let’s just make a parody of that’. Let’s make it the worst thing anyone’s ever seen on the internet.”
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) July 16, 2017
Creating the worst thing anyone’s ever seen on the internet is big task, and probably not one Rogers and his team succeeded with, thankfully. But Roma’s video, if taken seriously probably would qualify for the the worst transfer announcement of a summer with rich competition.
The fact that Roma tried to make the video as terrible as possible is both entirely obvious and a great relief, but it turns out that making the worst thing you’ve ever seen on the internet is tougher than it looks.
“When it was done, it actually looked like it might be serious, so we had to make it worse! Make the graphics worse, make the editing worse, make the music even more terrible. And we put it out and everyone loved it, so from there we just thought ‘how can we take this to even more extreme forms of stupidity.’ Because it was in danger of just becoming too pretentious.”
“And then, when Southampton did theirs – which I thought was fantastic, it was really cool – I thought, what could be more lazy than just taking someone else’s announcement video and just chucking a few different images in and just basically copying it.”
Not only did Roma copy the Southampton video, but the imitation starts off with the introduction, “an original AS Roma production” – itself ripped from Star Wars. Even the copy of the actual tweet, down to the very last emoji, was identical. But Roma were making a statement.
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) July 20, 2017
“The whole point was just to show that this is ridiculous: now a football club has just taken someone else’s transfer video and just replaced a couple of different shots, and then we threw in some random stuff – we were saying stupid stuff like, ‘I think an iceberg should just split off somewhere’ and we just chucked stuff in and it didn’t make any sense. And then we rolled out the video. And I think people just got it.”
It caused a stir. Rogers says his team didn’t contact Southampton before creating the video, whose own social media team – probably watching on with incredulity – decided to reply. In a world where a single tweet with no words – just a gif of a confused little girl – can go viral, the whole thing took off.
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) July 20, 2017
But even the fact that people were taking transfer announcement videos seriously enough to accuse Roma of plagiarism proves that Rogers and his team were right to make the point in the first place. Why should one football club have to contact another one about a Twitter post? The madness began with people taking themselves too seriously in the first place.
The idea of a transfer is that it’s about the excitement of signing a new player, but instead the digital teams were becoming the story. Southampton’s tweet was a parody in itself, and involved the signing of a substitute goalkeeper, but plenty of serious announcements were going viral, too. And it’s likely you’ve forgotten all about the player who was being announced, even if you remember which club he signed for.
When the people behind the Twitter account are becoming the story, it’s surely time to take a step back.
In one week, the transfer window will – mercifully – close, transfer announcements will be made redundant until January, and we can all focus once again on the actual sport as the players and managers will once again become the story. And we’ll probably have to prepare to do this all over again.
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