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England v Uruguay Boardroom Basics Special: What Rooney & Suarez can teach us about social media and brand reputation.

19 June 2014 | 05:21 am

“Please Mr Suarez, I beg you – Beat England!!!” wrote excited football fan, Shane Horrock on Luis Suarez official facebook fan page, just hours before today’s kick off of England v Uruguay.

Here’s hoping that not too many of the 6.8 millions fans of the page clicked through to Mr Horrock’s profile, as perhaps Suarez himself would blush with the array of profanity, discussion on Courtney Cox and cosmetic surgery, not forgetting the public support of the facebook group ‘Sack David Moyes’!

Mr Horrock belongs to the generation “my views are my own” implying that personal views are boxed off and in some way saving the employer from embarrassment or blame.  Should a profile be left open for public scrutiny in this way - by the press, recruiters and potential employers? Of course, his choice but if Mr Horrock was looking for a job and his CV had landed this week in application, naturally the first port of call would be search and he may be swiftly taken of the shortlist as a potential ‘health hazard’ for the brand.

But in this example, reputation is not confined simply to the employer.  There is the reputation of Suarez (as a player, an individual as a brand) who is now linked to Mr Horrock by (social media) association.  By a visitor to his page entering ‘Brand Suarez’, whether he likes it or not, we are susceptible of hearing the views of others and perhaps seeing things that challenge our values to the core. Not forgetting, the influence that footballers have on youth audiences, with millions of teenage fans across the globe tuning into the social media channels and sharpening their views of the world based on what they see, read and share.

Suarez would probably contest that he could not be held responsible for the views or actions of his fans. A historic echo of the excuses given for decades by football clubs eagerly trying to distance themselves from the poor behaviour of fans.  However, instead of sticking the ‘brand’s’ head in the sand we must consider and take steps to mitigate the risks associated with those who link to us and our brand, be it by direct or indirect social media association.


All brands need to protect the fans who visit their pages, engage in or read their social media. Suarez takes the top spot as one of the most popular Facebook Fan Pages in Uruguay, not just of sport but life as whole!  But of his 7million followers, just over 500k are from Uruguay (according to social bakers) with many of his fans linked to Liverpool.  So there are an array of languages, comments and posts by the public at large, left to their own devices to discuss and debate issues.

One big difference between Suarez and Rooney, setting aside that fact that Rooney wins on the popularity stakes with over 21 millions page likes, is the commercialisation on the pages.  In reality, both scenarios – fans and commercialisation are likely to be linked!

The Suarez Camp is not backwards in coming forwards commercially, with his facebook banner unashamedly swapping footballs for casino chips, to promote gambling brand 888.

The Rooney Camp on the other hand create a much more personal experience for fans, with authentic commentary, family pictures and insights into training.  The environment for a fan is more human and rapport building, less about ego and more about the game!  Commercial sponsorship messaging is very subtle – perhaps shaped a little by the slap on the wrist by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2012 where Rooney (amongst others) was reigned in on the Nike #makeitcount campaign.

Headlines this week such as ‘England forward takes to facebook…’ only serves to strengthen his social media credentials as a great social engager – a tactic that his camp are consistently getting very right.

Rooney this week took to facebook to set the record straight on his training regime, reaching nearly 100k likes,  2115 shares & 6,705 comments on one single post.

Rooney Facebook Post

What’s more, the Rooney’s page outperforms the England squad’s facebook page by a long way.  With only 4.1million followers and on average 1,000 or so likes per post and a couple of hundred shares (if lucky) – we get to see ‘who wears the trousers’ when it comes to social media prowess.  Rooney does hands (likes and posts) down.

PR gurus will often say that the bigger the group, the lesser the story.  And in social media terms this can be very true. Rooney demonstrates that as a social media entity he is wielding a much bigger influencer score than the England Team as a collective – his fans can form a more personal relationship and get to know the ‘person’ behind the brand.  The content is simply more engaging.

So we should remember that footballers are both individuals and employees. The clubs are the employer and for the periods when they represent their country, they will be governed by other additional measures to ensure that they serve their country well, both on an off the pitch! So was Rooney right to take to his own Facebook page to respond to the criticism? Instead should he have fed his official statement through the official channels? Of course he should and no doubt some communication manager somewhere linked to the England squad is wishing that the comment and those 100k likes had come in their direction!

But would his post have been remoulded, given a messaging overhaul – yes probably, which would have taken away the genuine value and authenticity for the fan.

So what can we learn from Rooney & Suarez?

  1. That sometimes our employees have a more engaging/ value added story to tell to our fans).
  2. That we must protect our fans when they are visiting our social media environments, stripping profanity and deleting inappropriate comments.
  3. That others they meet in our environments (and their views) also impact on our brand, so we should manage and moderate our pages to create the right fan base, with the right values for our brand
  4. That content needs to be authentic and rapport building
  5. That too much blatant commercialisation can stifle the growth of fans

Enjoy the game and see you all on Twitter #3Lions later!

Michelle Leavesley

Marketing Director





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