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  News: Countdown to EURO 2004


Advertising is big business for players
They will be on opposing sides in Portugal this month but some of Europe's top players often appear in the same team on television screens.
Wednesday, 09 June 2004

Few teams can compare with the sides assembled by sportswear companies Nike and Adidas for their pre-Euro 2004 adverts.

Adidas advert "the Road to Lisbon" features Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Raul and Alessandro del Piero among others fooling around on scooters supposedly en route to the finals in Portugal.

An ad hoc game of football ensues along the back streets of a Portuguese village, culminating in Beckham crossing for del Piero to backflick the ball to Raul by somersaulting over the handlebars of his scooter.

Raul duly obliges by smashing the ball into the net beyond a dozen awe-struck goalkeepers, who look overwhelmed to be playing with some of Europe's biggest names.

But clever camera trickery meant the Adidas dream team was not all it appeared.

"Some of the players were together and some were elsewhere," Adidas spokeswoman Anne Putz said. "Then the pieces of the advert were stuck together."

However, the allure of Europe's finest is not quite enough for Nike as one of their pre-Euro 2004 adverts features the Brazil team in a fake match against tournament hosts Portugal.

Advertisers believe the use of sports stars in commercials persuades youngsters to buy the product endorsed by their idols.

Television audience figures for Euro 2004 across the continent are expected to be higher than those for August's Athens Olympics and advertisers have been scrambling to get precious airtime.

A television advertising source told Reuters that Euro 2004 "spots" -- 30 seconds of airtime in a commercial break -- were being sold for around $450,000.

Spots during the July 4 final would cost considerably more, the source said, especially if the broadcaster's national side were appearing.

The cost to advertisers of recruiting Europe's football elite is confidential but magazines France Football and Forbes estimate the world's best-paid player, Real Madrid's Beckham, received some $20 million from his plethora of endorsements last year, compared with $10 million in salary.

In March, Adidas extended Beckham's contract until 2008 and even launched his own brand logo, a motif resembling him taking a free kick. He has also recently linked up with Gillette in what analysts believe is his most lucrative endorsement.

But sometimes companies can score spectacular corporate own goals by contracting the wrong player at the wrong time.

Beckham upset Brylcreem, the hair-gel makers, when he shaved off his hair in 2000 while under contract to them.

Some media reports alleged one of Beckham's biggest sponsors, mobile phone firm Vodafone, had demanded he move to a different club because Real were sponsored by phone rival Siemens.

Vodafone rubbished the suggestions, saying Beckham's private life was his own and they had no influence over any decision he made.

Before the 2002 World Cup, Italy playmaker Francesco Totti appeared in an advert for Fiat cars during which he received an e-mail in his car from England striker Emile Heskey, a bizarre combination as the players hardly knew each other.

Heskey was used so the advert could be aired in England and because he was not contracted to any other company, unlike more glamorous names such as Beckham and Michael Owen.

The current crop of football-based adverts show that advertisers have realised it is more cost effective to make one advert for the whole continent rather than individual editions for each country.

"We have a global ad campaign because we are a global brand," Adidas's Putz said. "We also supply the official match ball for Euro 2004. It is all part of our advertising strategy."

Adidas say the match ball, dubbed Roteiro, is a revolutionary new design using thermal bonding to create a seamless surface.

But several players and teams at this year's tournament, which starts on Saturday, are far from enamoured with the silver and blue ball.

Czech national coach Karel Brueckner said: "It is almost impossible to play a pass behind the defence line with it. We lost many balls."

Spain's young winger Joaquin was even more damning.

"It is hard to believe they can call this a ball," he said, while international team mate Ivan Helguera labelled it "a beach ball".
- Reuters



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