Yoni Weisberg, Director at Chief. Productions, discusses how sportsmen and women have boldly used their platform to speak out on the big issues we face in society.
Director Yoni Weisberg on how football marketing has changed over the years.
Our relationship with football in this country has long been a rollercoaster of emotions often depending on the result of a decisive penalty shootout. Ultimately though, there aren’t many things in the world that have the power to communicate and connect with as many people as football does. Football has the potential to bridge divides, it has the capacity to create positive change. And for me, as a Director this means delivering visceral, authentic, gritty and inspiring commercial content that captures fans around the world.
In most recent years, we’ve seen football drastically change. It’s more inclusive. There’s greater representation on the pitch and screen. The football fan demographic has broadened and is no longer perceived as just a game for the “lads”. With these changes, comes a great opportunity to use football as a vehicle to introduce important topics to the public that perhaps weren’t previously your typical pub chat fodder.
Football has the potential to bridge divides, it has the capacity to create positive change
One of the first football films I directed was for Adidas, in partnership with Manchester United. Liv Cooke, who is an incredible professional freestyler, was front and centre opening the piece – but speaking to her then (only a few years ago) she still felt like women’s football was on the back burner. Thankfully that is no longer the case.
With the amazing success of the England team at the Euros, women’s football is going to be the centrepiece of a lot of advertising, and rightfully so. We’re already seeing the positive effects of the growth of women’s football and what this means for brands’ audience targeting and messaging. I can only see this leading to a plethora of interesting scripts, and opportunities to make some amazing sports films with incredible global reach.
Footballers, sportsmen and women that make the British game the biggest in the world have boldly used their platform to speak out on the big issues we face in society
Off the pitch and screens, football culture has also taken some new and interesting avenues. Football activism is perhaps the most fascinating change for me. Whether it’s Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school dinners, Jordan Henderson’s drive to raise money for NHS charities during covid, or players continuing to take the knee and keep the conversation about racial injustice going. Footballers, sportsmen and women that make the British game the biggest in the world have boldly used their platform to speak out on the big issues we face in society.
And this isn’t just the new generation of football stars. Late last year, I worked with Pep Guardiola, arguably the greatest manager in the history of the game, on a film to raise awareness of the growing cost of water pollution – a topic which, even off camera, he had a lot to say about. Whether it was discussing the waterways in Manchester or his native Catalonia. As a filmmaker, it is empowering when you have on-screen talent of such magnitude in front of a camera who believes in the subject so passionately. You can feel that belief ripple throughout the whole crew. It’s not dissimilar (I imagine) to a great team talk.
Despite the protests from some famous voices, who are thankfully appearing less on our TV screens (*hint* Piers Morgan and his “stick to football” jibes), football superstars are using their platform more than ever to talk about subjects that are close to them. I recently worked with national treasure and Arsenal legend Ian Wright, who has long held women’s football close to his heart. But this time he was championing health for M&S Food’s Eat Well, Play Well campaign. His earnestness when talking about the script gave us all the certainty that the message at the heart of the ad would be well received by the audience.
I’ve worked on many football films that are so diverse visually, but my approach to them in the abstract remains similar. My first goal is to always find the right avenue into the script. Then, find an entertaining, exciting and captivating way to deliver the message to the audience. With Chief’s M&S film featuring Ian Wright, we achieved this through an array of interesting vignettes developed with Richard Robinson (Head of Creative at M&S) which brought the script to life in charming, witty and interesting ways.
However, when creating the Euro 2020 titles for the BBC, it was all about bringing the culture of an entire country or region to life with beautiful, colourful artwork.
One of the most exhilarating things about creating any piece of work with superstar footballers at the epicentre is that you have creative space to build around them. As football is a global phenomenon, you already know that what you make will have billions of eyeballs on it. For me, this is at its best when you take a compelling message, and a great brand and combine it with distinct visuals and sound.