Hands up who hasn’t known for years that Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is a “bad” boy. If Coca-Cola has not got its hand up, I accuse it of humbug or worse (plain stupidity).
What was Coca-Cola thinking of when it decided to make Wayne Rooney the face of its Coke Zero advertising campaign for the next couple of years? His track record in the tabloids is legendary. So it is hard to believe its C-suite was really “disgusted” by his latest antics and obliged to cancel his contract. There’s more to this than that.
Coca-Cola’s direct involvement with Wayne Rooney was like sky-diving without a parachute. Coca-Cola’s PRs ought to have known what a risk Rooney was (if they didn’t, they should have been fired).
Unless driven by cynicism, I can’t see why a “families values” brand should even contemplate selecting Wayne Rooney as the embodiment of its reputation. He’s a whore-mongering two-timer whose wife is picking up all the kudos. In his fraternity that’s the aftermath of a me-too night out. But there you go.
Coca-Cola took a punt, pure and simple. But having willingly got into bed with him, it should have been prepared to stick by him through thick and thin. It should have stated all along that it was backing the professional hero in him, not his private conduct. Instead, Coca-Cola endorsed Wayne Rooney’s entire life-style as if it satisfied their own vision. When it came unstuck, it dumped him.
Coke-Cola is guilty of being disingenuous. Praying that he wouldn’t get caught behaving badly, it deluded itself when it attached itself to Wayne Rooney’s profile. Its erratic behaviour exposes that Coca-Cola doesn’t know much, like or care much about football or show much loyalty to its sponsored icons.
Football is one of last great bastions of rugged individualism and authentic competition. It produces rough heroes, but rarely paragons of virtue. Its major players are stalked by tabloid hacks in search of sensations. They know that the game, from club ownership, to managers, players and fans, is a politically incorrect refuge in a wickedly politically correct world.
Coca-Cola can identify itself as rugged and risky, or as clean-living, but not both. Meanwhile, football welcomes its money; the more the merrier. But its many millions of fans are not fooled by the firm’s ‘We all speak football‘ slogan. Fans are aware that the unfaithful Coca-Cola doesn’t do sports sponsorship, or understand where Wayne Rooney fits into the fans’ esteem. It merely promotes its own values and image, not football’s.