Why Recognising Culture Clashes is Important when Communicating through Sport

by Joshua Jibulu, Creative at Vensy

Famously, a South African icon once said that “sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does”. Nelson Mandela’s inspirational words still hold true. The evolution sports has undertaken through the vaults of technological development has allowed it to bind with neighbouring cultural realms. Further uniting people.

In a sport impregnated with ample interest, football news does not need to do much travelling to find its reach. A towering tree with copious endings, football’s communication portal has flourishing branches creating a digital arena that aids fan experiences. Under the microscope, we see that features of surrounding cultures have diffused into football’s ecosystem. Naturally, with its broad audience, football presence is likely to be felt within other cultural spheres, namely fashion and music. This changes the way fans consume content, as cultural intersections are shifting. Recognising these intersections and understanding how fans synthesise information is important.

Fashion

With their polarising differences, it is easy to overlook fashion’s influence on football. However, fashion and football ties are nothing new. They go hand in hand and we see it almost everywhere. As these overlaps become more apparent, we witness an underlying cultural driver further propelling football’s popularity. 

It’s not uncommon to see football nailing aesthetics and leveraging its fashion fluent audience. It was only at the beginning of this season in fact, when Paddy Power played on this idea in their ‘save our shirt’ campaign. Further, the footballing gangs in Turin and Paris, have been pioneers of this ‘cultural consciousness’. Juventus and PSG have clashed fashion and football head-on; with collaborations with Palace and Air Jordan respectively. Hector Bellerin is an example of a more pronounced premier league star surfing along the waves of fashion and football, openly speaking about his passions for both. The Arsenal star was heavily involved in the creation of the first teams’ matchday suits. Raheem Sterling’s partnership with H&M, is another example of this boiling cauldron consisting of fashion and football additives. 

‘Bro what’s it saying?……Yes my G, that is flames you know’

The ideas and stories conveyed through fashion speak volumes. Adidas’ ‘be a Londoner’ kit launch campaign for Arsenal at the beginning of the season allowed fans to live vicariously through the fabrics of fashion. Here, in this campaign they captured significant cultural moments, pivoting on ideas around fashion. The campaign straddled modern London culture as well as anticipation for Arsenal’s upcoming season, all while purposely modelling a vintage-inspired kit. All the more notable as the vintage kit scene is rising in popularity and seeping into men and women’s fashion. By Nike also playing on this in their third kit launches this season, it is further evidence of the developing awareness for the surrounding cultures of fashion. The Nike Air Jordan trainers that were able to firmly carve its way into pop culture and transcend basketball by virtue of its commercial success, makes for a slight but notable reminiscence.  

Another example that comes to recent memory was Nigeria’s ‘18 World Cup kit. A traditional based style elegantly grooved into the tech charged jersey. The latest material innovations were not a match for the carefully mustered design that would connect with Nigeria’s roots, opening what would have been closed eyes. The kit’s popularity and ability to communicate in the realms of fashion was demonstrated when it sold out within minutes and became the newest addition to a social media hype train at the time.

Music

As football’s communication branches grow coarser it takes us to a more subtle path within music. Music and football share synonymous cultural overlaps, other than the raucous shouts you may hear from fans and crowds on game day. Interestingly enough, music is laced with football connotations, with famous musicians exhibiting their passion for the game. In an original display, Adidas’ paired new Manchester United signing Paul Pogba and rapper Stormzy in an impressive announcement video back in 2016. Whilst popular canadian artist Drake famously showed his support in Juventus’ garish pink jersey in the same year. More recently, rapper Jay Z’ entertainment platform Roc Nation has announced a partnership with AC Milan, adding to the platforms diverse entertainment experience. Many musicians for example also tend to have football references woven into their lyrics. British rapper Big Zuu is an example of this as a regular feature for BBC sport, showcasing his elegant witticism when sharing football-related news (mainly Liverpool news) through his freestyles. Despite currently being a small observation, it serves as a considerable contribution. The observation details how features of the arts scene are quickly becoming staples in modern sports consumption.

Football is an example of how sport is transcending itself, intertwining with surrounding cultural spaces. These intersections are a sweet spot, a crevice of opportunity even, that targets an array of people and diversifies and extends the communication line. Football as a communication vehicle is being revved by its upcoming artistic counterparts of fashion, music and gaming to name a few, all whilst being ignited in a digitally mediated space. These developments transform the fan experience.

Recognising these overlaps is essential, from a marketing perspective, it opens up how you as a brand can share stories and important messages to an audience. With their powerful voices, Raheem sterling and Hector Bellerin are examples of players who have been able to harness their shared interests when raising conversation on important issues and empowering communities. With the digital crazy space we find ourselves in, leveraging these fields can serve a purpose of driving conversations within football to an outer core of listeners and maximising fan experiences, all while uniting more people.

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