Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’


Friday, November 25th, 2011

Among the many fabulous presents I received for my birthday was a pair of tickets to see 1. FC Union at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf in the German second division. They were a present from Erik, who has been trying to get me to come to a game since we moved to Berlin. We didn’t manage it last year – not because I didn’t want to, but because it proved too difficult to organise (I know, I know…). This season he played it very well – even down to getting permission from Ilka for me to go to the game before he bought the tickets. Back of the net!
Union are the East German Berlin team, Hertha BSC being their West German counterparts. They play at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, a 19,000 capacity stadium on the edge of a forested park called Wuhlheide. The name translates as ‘Stadium near the old forester’s house’, which is rather more poetic than most football stadium names. And this is the way Union would like it to stay. They are currently raising money to develop the West stand, and rather than sell the naming rights for the stadium in order to raise the money (as other clubs have done), they are instead offering club members, fans and sponsors the opportunity to buy shares (a maximum of 10) in the stadium at €500 a pop. Their stated aim in doing this is to preserve the footballing experience and the electric atmosphere at home games, rather than selling out to commercial interests. Having experienced the atmosphere, of which more later, I fully understand and support this aim (though I haven’t put my hand in my pocket just yet).
They’ve come up with a great advertising campaign for the share issue, which has already got them into a spot of bother. Here’s one of the three posters / postcards they’ve produced:

RB postcard
The strapline reads ‘We’re selling our soul – but not to everyone’. This poster is a dig at RB Leipzig, a fourth division team that recently received a large investment from Red Bull. There’s a quote from Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz underneath that says ‘How much does the world cost?’, implying everything has a price. Note that I didn’t say that Leipzig were bought by Red Bull – under German football ownership laws, that’s not allowed. Club members have to own at least 51% of the club, which prevents the kind of takeovers by super-rich oligarchs seen in the English top division in recent years. Red Bull were also not allowed to call the team ‘Red Bull Leipzig’, so they used a cheap trick to get around this – they called the team ‘RasenBallsport Leipzig’ (Racing Ball Sport Leipzig), or ‘RB Leipzig’ for short… and are now threatening to sue Union over this advert. Here are the other two images:

Sepp Blatter postcard
The quote from Blatter is ‘People who sit down are calm’ – three of the stands at Union are are exactly that – standing, just like the majority of stadiums prior to Hillsborough. Union want it kept that way, though the new stand will have seating, as does the one it will replace – just a lot more of it. The rest of the fans are happy to stand. The last poster is my favourite:

Berlusconi poster
The quote from Berlusconi is ‘Big clubs have high costs. They can’t play in provincial stadiums with capacities of 20,000’. Union think otherwise. Each of the quotes are attributed – to a “football” sponsor (Mateschitz), a “football” marketer (Blatter!) and a “football” president (Berlusconi). The quotation marks are there to imply that what these people are involved in isn’t really football – it’s business, and this is what Union are taking a stand against (no pun intended, though English speaking Germans might like that, they love puns over here).
So what about the game, I hear you cry? Well, Fortuna were top of the league coming into the game, while Union were in seventh, so it was going to be a tough match. Walking through the forest to the stadium was certainly a pleasant change to trudging through streets of terraced houses. Here’s the view from where we stood:

On the stand
The smaller stand on the right hand side is the one that’s going to be redeveloped. There was a half-hour delay to the kickoff due to the visiting fans’ bus getting caught up in traffic – it’s a long way to Berlin from Düsseldorf – so I did what any good German fan ought to do: I bought a bratwurst and a beer. Just before kickoff, the fans were tuned up by a guy with a microphone who introduced the team – every player’s name being greeted by the capacity crowd with a chant of ‘Fussball Gott!’ (football God). After this came the club’s anthem, and I started to understand why Union cherish their atmosphere so highly. The whole stadium sang along (OK, maybe not the away fans) – I managed to pick up some of it and joined in. Once the game got underway, Union had the ball in the back of the net after about five minutes, only for it to be ruled offside. Without the benefit of a replay, it’s hard to say if this was a good call – it looked very tight. Union kept up the pressure and actually had the better of the first half, backed all the way by the fans, who made a terrific noise. Despite all this, the score stayed at 0-0 until half time. Just before the start of the second half, the visiting fans let off red and white smoke (those being Fortuna’s colours), which led to another delay while the police moved in – fireworks are banned in Germany, except for New Year’s Eve. Here’s what it looked like:

Fortuna fans let off steam
Fortuna stepped up a gear in the second half, and so too did the Union fans – there were points in the second half where the volume was amazing. Union managed to weather the storm, and even had a great chance in the dying seconds to win the game, only for the opposition keeper to make a great fingertip save over the bar. Final score 0-0, but by no means a boring game, and the standard of football wasn’t too bad either. The real stars though were the Union fans. If the team could play as well as their fans can sing, they’d be playing the first division.
I suppose I ought to explain the title of this blog: U.N.V.E.U. stands for ‘Und niemal vergessen, Eisern Union’, which translates as ‘And never forget, Iron Union’ (Iron Union being the club’s nickname). Union fans use it in a similar way to Liverpool fans using YNWA, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. It’s another part of the footballing tradition Union are so keen to preserve, along with the name of their stadium and their fantastic fans, among whom I now number myself. Here’s one last picture of them saluting the team as they came out, as my salute to them. U.N.V.E.U.!

The East stand massive

Some further reading:
Here’s an good blog on German football ownership, with more about Leipzig.
The Economist has an article about the share sale that also mentions the game I was at.
This article in the Guardian goes into the 50+1 rule in more detail.

Why I’m Voting Pirate

Friday, September 16th, 2011

There are local elections this weekend in Berlin, and I’m allowed to vote. At the moment, I’m leaning towards the Pirate Party, for two reasons: a) they’re called the Pirate Party and b) because of their advertising. I wouldn’t normally choose to vote for such apparently flippant reasons, so allow me to explain myself.

I still consume most of my news in English via the BBC. We often have a local German station (Radio Eins or Flux FM) on the radio, so I’ll hear news bulletins in German from time to time, but I have to concentrate pretty hard to understand them properly which is hard if the children are making their usual racket. I hardly ever watch the TV these days, and I’ve never really been a newspaper reader. This means my knowledge of German politics isn’t very developed, and tends to be at a national or international rather that a local level. So I haven’t got much to go on when it comes to choosing which party to vote for. To make matters worse most of the parties go by three letter acronyms, which makes it easy to mix them up. I already did that in an earlier draft of this post, confusing the Communists with the Social Democrats which Ilka thankfully corrected for me.

I first became aware it was election time because all of a sudden the streets were full of posters on lamposts. Most of the political advertising I’ve seen is pretty dull – they mostly show a picture of the candidate and the name of the party, and not much else. The Green candidate also has a lot of billboards up showing their candidate in various situations with anodyne slogans like “Renate works” or “Renate cares”. What none of this advertising tells me is what these people stand for. As advertising goes, it fails pretty miserably in this respect. What I do like, though, is that the Pirates have started subverting the lampost placards, by sticking a smaller poster underneath saying “…, or Pirates!”. Here’s an example:

A subverted election poster

The Pirate Party’s own posters do at least have some ideology on them. Though I can’t always understand all of what they’re saying, my German has improved enough that I get the gist of it. I particularly like ‘Privatise Religion Now!”.

Pirate Party poster
I’ve had a look at their website and they seem to be very keen on transparency and freedom of information, with a nod to the environment, education and families. So their advertising has been a lot more effective, at least where I’m concerned – I haven’t bothered to look at the websites of any of the other parties yet. When I first mentioned to Ilka that I might vote Pirate, she said “That’s a waste, they won’t get enough votes”. If we were still in England, that might be a reasonable argument, but as we have proportional representation here it’s a pretty weak one. She later told me that she’d heard on the radio that the polls are showing they have a large enough share of the vote to win a seat. Maybe I’m not the only one who likes their ads.

I did read the election leaflet from the SPD mayoral candidate, in the interests of some sort of balance. Klaus Wowereit has been Berlin’s mayor for the last ten years, and it looks like he’s well set for another term. He trades on this in his leaflet, which isn’t such a bad idea – apart from the fact that Berlin is burdened with a Greek-sized debt, he seems to have done a fairly good job as far as I can tell. He talks about job creation and a minimum wage (Germany doesn’t yet have one, surprisingly), free education from nursery to university (though Ilka pointed out nursery is only free from three years old) and also about holding Berlin together, and keeping it open. I actually struggled to translate this last bit, although I know exactly what he’s talking about, and he rightly describes it as the most important point. It’s a reference to the social problems Berlin is experiencing, which is the only real political topic I’ve heard discussed. Given that gentrification has become an issue on his watch, he can’t really avoid the issue. I’m not sure his administration has really handled it very well though – for example, I think a better solution could have been found and the riot avoided at the Liebig Str. squat. He says he’ll work really hard on this problem every day, but stops short of offering any real solutions.

I won’t be unhappy if Wowereit wins another term, but I don’t think I’ll be voting for him. I’ll be voting Pirate, partly because I like their name, partly because I like their ads, partly because of their ideology, and partly because it somehow feels right that Berlin should have pirates in power.