Bad PR: The Huge Weekend That Never Was

Put aside those petty squabbles in the pub, lay to rest your arguments about tiny flags and sportswear bans and stop worrying about how it’s Political-Correctness-gone-mad-next-they’ll-have-us-all-speaking-bloody-Muslim-or-something, because it’s now officially official – England is the most ‘footie’ mad country in the world. It’s true, we’re number 1. We love the whole footie thing, we do. Can’t get enough of it. Mad for it. Footie and England, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G and all that. It’s official.

Well, The Sun says it’s official, anyway:

Official: England Is Footie Mad

ENGLAND is the most football-mad country in the world, a study has found.

Research revealed English blokes spend more time watching, playing, reading and talking about the beautiful game than anywhere else on the planet. – Source: The Sun

Yep, they’ve got research to back that up. Probably research done by boffins. Probably zany boffins, who have formulas for the perfect cup of tea, or the perfect shave, or the perfect cliché involving zany boffins.

The study found a typical soccer fan watches football — including highlights — for two hours and 22 minutes every week.

They also spend 28 minutes each day chin-wagging about the latest results, tackles, goals or transfer gossip.

In second place was Thailand, where men spend three hours talking about the sport, followed by three-time World Cup winners Brazil in third. – Source: The Sun

Now, I know you lot. You’re a skeptical lot. And this is BadPR, so I know what you’re thinking – who benefits from this? Well, damn you and your cynicism, I’ve no idea what you could possibly mean. The Sun continues:

The research was carried out by lager brewer Heineken. – Source: The Sun

Oh, right, yeah, sorry – this is just a shit survey from lager lot Heineken. Obviously. As Heineken’s PR department continue:

Spokesman Rick Lawrence said: “It might not be the news women want to hear but it seems men really do only think about one thing — and that’s football.

“This is a huge weekend for football and gives men an excuse, if they need one, to talk about their favourite subject even more.” – Source: Heineken’s Fucking PR Department

Sure, why not throw a bit of laddish gender stereotyping in there (actually, as it happens, my girlfriend can’t wait for the World Cup to start, and has been planning EVERYTHING we’re going to be doing in the next month around the ability to watch a couple of games a day. Take that, stereotyping). Still, there’s a few things that are glaringly amiss here, other than the whole bullshit part:

  • Heineken isn’t a sponsor of the World Cup, Budweiser pipped them to it, see?
  • The article hit The Sun on the 28th – that wasn’t a big weekend for football. In fact, there was no football of note taking place on that weekend (unless you count Milwall vs Southend in the League One Play-offs).

Clearly, something is amiss here, so let’s take a look at the official source of the report – which, as ever, is stupidly easy to find. While OnePoll are taking credit for the success of the survey, the official press release can be found on the Heineken website, minus the nationalistic overtones inevitable added in by The Sun, naturally.

Football Crazy – Men From Around The World Put Football Ahead of Women!  – Source: Heineken’s Actual Fucking PR Department

Oh, yeah, sorry, they spun it with a dodgily sexist headline instead. Should have warned you about that. Still, football ahead of women? They must have something pretty concrete to back that claim up, right?

An international survey, carried out by UEFA Champions League sponsor Heineken, has shown wives and girlfriends are second when it comes to the topics most discussed by men when they get together with their mates.

The study found that overall a staggering 88% of those asked said that football was top of the league for the subjects they talk about over a beer with their friends, with wives and girlfriends coming in the runners-up spot with 45% – work came in third with 34%. Men from Germany and France placed work in second and with their wives and girlfriends coming in third. – Source: Heineken’s Actual Fucking PR Department

Surprisingly, no, they don’t have anything concrete at all. What they have is a load of men saying they talk about football to other men more often than they talk about their girlfriends. Which is entirely different, of course – top of the head reasons:

  • I will talk football to a stranger, I won’t talk about my relationships with a total stranger (and they wouldn’t want to hear if I did)
  • Experimenter bias in the survey – bias the question towards the desired answer and see how many men fall into line. ‘Hello Heineken drinker, we’re sponsoring the Champions League – would you talk about football to other men more often than you’d talk about your girlfriend, do you think? Here, have a beer, courtesy of UEFA’
  • Selection bias – who you elect to take the survey, and how you find them, can be key. ‘Hi there, sorry to bother you as you’re just walking out of Anfield post-match, but would you mind taking a quick survey about football?’
  • Etc

So, where does the ‘big weekend’ error come into it?

Tim Ellerton, Sponsorship Manager Heineken International, said: “It might not be the news women wanted to hear but it appears men really do only think about one thing when they get together with their mates – and that’s football. With the UEFA Champions League Final taking place this Saturday it is a huge weekend for football and gives men an excuse, if they ever needed one, to talk about their favourite subject.” – Source: Heineken’s Actual Fucking PR Department

Of course – for those who don’t follow football, the Champions League final took place the weekend BEFORE The Sun ran this advert/story/article. The wise and smart ‘STAFF REPORTER’ thought it prudent to omit the reference to a final which had already passed; unfortunately Mr/Ms REPORTER wasn’t smart enough or professional enough to skim read the story afterwards, and do even the basic amount of fact checking required to find out the season had fucking finished by the time their reports of an upcoming ‘huge weekend’ were printed. Ah, churnalism, how I do love thee.

Still, journalism and PR this piss-poor doesn’t go unnoticed, and even The Sun’s comments section threw in a few lolz to cheer us all up:

Any man who does not like football is usually a bit….funny! – 2lulaura

Casual and unconnected homophobia – lovin’ your work, Sun reader.

Another study reveals that a lot of post grad students are unable to take up valuable scientific research bcoz of lack of funding. – lukep12345

He shoots, he scores.

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  1. #1 by @christheneck on June 2, 2010 - 12:48

    I would heartily recommend “Why England Lose and other curious phenomena explained”. It’s an sports journalist/economist look at almost all aspects of football and explained more to me than I thought possible.

    Needless to say, when you run the maths, England is not the most football mad country in the world, nowhere near the best at sport, aren’t “unlucky” and perform about as well as can be expected given their geographical location, population, experience and GDP.

  2. #2 by Rob crawford on June 2, 2010 - 14:26

    Just wondering if the same research has been printed in every other qualifying country which Heineken is also sold in.

    Somehow I have the feeling that it may not be England named as the most football mad country.

    I wonder if the runner up will always be Thailand though.

  3. #3 by Marsh on June 2, 2010 - 15:34

    Rob – I suspect they run England everywhere, as the Heineken angle was the ‘Footbal comes second to women’, which is much more universal. The England slant was The Sun’s own doing.

  4. #4 by Rob Crawford on June 2, 2010 - 21:44

    Guess I’m just a bit to jaded after 15 years at the Mirror.

    Then again if its in the Sun and then can’t even print a PR blurb accurately

  5. #5 by Mike on June 3, 2010 - 17:49

    What about the percentages? 88% of them said football was their most talked-about subject, whereas 45% said it was their partner and 34% said it was work. That’s 167%. I presume it’s just a horrifically-worded sentence to try and fit ‘top of the league’ into it. Pun-tastic.

    If you’re interested in the Sun’s incredible word-games, I’d recommend this post by Five Chinese Crackers where he takes the piss out of the Sun’s recent front-page headline: CANNIBAL COPS FIND KILLER’S KIT.

  6. #6 by Jon d on June 4, 2010 - 01:12

    And of course if you want to watch premiership football on TV you’re supposed to pay a kings ransom to a certain well known satellite tv company which coincidentally has the same proprietor as the Sun newspaper.

  7. #7 by Mike Boyce on June 4, 2010 - 12:01

    I was also confused by what those percentages mean and, if you look at the original press release on the Heineken site, it gives the following list:

    The top ten topics discussed by groups of men were as follows:

    1. Football (88%)
    2. Wives and Girlfriends (45%)
    3. Work (34%)
    4. Money (24%)
    5. Cars (19%)
    6. Night Out (18%)
    7. Family (16%)
    8. Food (14%)
    9. Holidays (12%)
    10. Film (10%)

    Even more confusing?

    I can make sense of it if it means eg 88% of those surveyed include football in their conversations with their mates, 45% include talk about wives/girlfriends etc.

    Also, the fact that there are (at least) 10 topics discussed by the men surveyed rather goes against the idea that:

    “it appears men really do only think about ONE thing when they get together with their mates” (my caps)

    put forward by the Heineken spokesman.

    It would be interesting to see the original survey questionnaire to see what was actually being asked and what these figures represent.

  8. #8 by Paul on June 5, 2010 - 01:08

    Ermm … it was Millwall vs Swindon the League one Play off final, It was not Southend, sorry for being pedantic

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