The Bite – A PR perspective

At work today, I was asked to write a short piece analysing the fallout of the Luis Suarez biting incident from a PR perspective. I got a bit carried away, wrote too much, and had to cut it down. Which is good news for you lot, because it means I can use the unabridged version as a blog. Reduce, reuse, recycle, as Bob The Builder might say…

You know he might. He really might.

They say there’s a fine line between genius and madness, and there’s few better examples of that than the case of Luis Suarez.

The full scale of his ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character came into full focus this week when, fresh from demonstrating his brilliance in effectively dumping England out of the World Cup, the mercurial Uruguay forward hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after sinking his teeth into the flesh of the Italian defender, Giorgio Chiellini.

Amid a widespread outpouring of shock and condemnation as Suarez became the centre of a storm of controversy for the umpteenth time, there was also room for some quirky creativity from brands who quickly capitalised on the incident.

Serial stunt specialists Specsavers leveraged its iconic ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ line by alluding that Suarez may have confused his opponent with the popular Italian dish, cannelloni, while Snickers referenced its ‘Eat a Snickers’ campaign with the slogan ‘More satisfying than an Italian’.  Official World Cup partners also got in on the act, with Budweiser pointing out the virtues of its twist cap Bud Light bottles, while McDonalds in Uruguay were keen to stress that biting on a Big Mac is preferable to chowing down on Chiellini.

However, while some brands reveled in the limelight, there were others left scratching their heads as they pondered their next move. Suarez’s boot sponsor, Adidas, has announced that it is to review its relationship with the striker, and with a four month ban from all football activity now in effect, he has already been dropped as the worldwide ambassador of 888 Poker.

Most fascinating of all, though, will be the response of Liverpool Football Club.

With its questionable PR activity surrounding some of Suarez’s previous controversies still fresh in the minds of the powers-that-be at the Anfield club, including the disastrous t-shirts stunt after he was charged with racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, its reaction to this incident will require careful consideration.

While there will be a temptation for the club to rid itself of a player who has once again dragged its reputation through the mud, losing somebody of his unquestionable quality would without doubt reduce its prospects on the field.

In this case, the most fascinating clash for Liverpool this season is the brand versus the team. What will the outcome be? Now there’s a debate to really get your teeth into.