Brazilians are passionate about the beautiful game, but unfortunately some of the county’s biggest games – especially its major city derbies – are marred by violence.
But this season saw south Brazil’s biggest team, Sport Club Internacional, take action against such violence with an admirable ambient initiative called ‘Side By Side’ that was based around a powerful, participatory approach to ticket sales for its match against local Porte Alegre rivals Gremio (know as the ‘Grenais’).
Marred by violence in recent seasons, Internacional versus Gremio is Brazil’s biggest and traditionally fiercest derby match (it is one of South America’s three flagship local derbies alongside Boca Juniors vs River Plate in Argentina and Peñarol vs Nacional in Uruguay).
In an attempt to change supporter behaviour and bring families back to its stadium, SC Internacional proposed an unexpected joint crowd invitation – for fans to attend the game in its the Campeonato Gaúcho they had to invite a Gremio supporter to sit beside them.
Indeed, to buy a ticket to the big game, home fans needed not just to invite a rival Gremio fan to sit next to them at the match, but also they pairs had to walk a kilometre down ‘Goals’ Way’ together to the stadium.
Club members and ticket buyers were sent a surprising invitation to the much-anticipated match – the invite explained the catch: if they wanted to attend the game they would be required to walk to the ground with a fan from the opposite team and sit beside them throughout the match.
SC Internacional’s aim was to bring fans together, to unite them in their love for the game and to show that watching a big soccer match in Brazil can be safe for everyone – from kids to families.
To change the local fan culture by sitting them next to one another so they could humanis oppostition supporters and see that these rivals fans are just ordinary people (like them).
The aim was to return football fandom to being about passion for the game and to end the frequent outbreaks of inter-fan violence that had marred recent derbies.
The campaign was developed by Sport Club Internacional’s own in-house production team (stretching from Club President Vitório Carlos Costi Piffero and Club Vice-President: Alexandre Silveira Limeira, through Marketing/Media Vice-President Luiz Henrique Nuñez and Marketing/Media Director Gildo Sibemberg, to PR work by João Vicente Linck Figueira.
The film was produced by Nero Films and directed by Nero Orlandi and sound and audio post production was by B Sound Thinking.
‘Our goal was to surpass the stadium barriers and bring back the origin of the sport, that has had in its essence the gathering of people in a healthy environment,’ explains Sport Club Internacional Vice President Alexandre Silveira.
‘Sport Club Internacional’s campaign restated the coexistence and tolerance message for everyone around the world. We realized the success of the campaign, mainly, with the increased number of kids in the following games.’
It seems that the supporters were keen to join the initiative as within 48 hours of the campaign launch more than 2,000 ticket pairs were sold
The initiative is part of SC Internacional’s wider aim to build a culture of inclusivity and an image of good practice. Inclusivity is one of their principles.
‘The mixed crowd ‘Grenais’ crowd is an absolute success story that proves you can have the unique experience of supporting your team at the stadium next to your rival without losing the security and pleasure the game provides,’ states SC Internacional’s Marketing and Media Vice-President Luiz Henrique Nuñez.
‘There was no resistance from the fans. The idea was well received and generated much enthusiasm. There was the fear that something might not go well by some people, including authorities. But everyone involved, such as the security team, traffic control and fire department, among others, along ensured that this great initiative was a success.’
‘It’s still early to say that this can stop the violence in stadiums in days of great rivalries, but it certainly diminishes it and it’s an important starting point to solve this issue. For us it is a path of no return – with a growing trend to host fans of both teams sitting side by side in the stadiums.’
Indeed, the tactic is becoming a trend as it spreads to other clubs in Brazil.
This is a fresh and fantastic ambient idea!
There were certainly risks involved and no guarantees of success, so it clearly took some courage and commitment from all parties involved – from the clubs and the fans, to the police and local government – to bring it to life.
Changing consumer behaviour is touch and changing football fan behaviour is even tougher.
Humanising rivals in this direct way is a clever way to break down barriers, to generate respect and football brotherhood and to curb violence.
Could it offer a template for fierce and problematic local sports rivals all over the world?
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