Late August saw UEFA link up with a team of global player ambassadors to launch the regional governing body’s new social responsibility and respect campaign called #EqualGame.
The integrated initiative, which was initially launched in late August in Monaco with a logo unveiling, aims to positively promote inclusion, diversity and accessibility in football across age, gender, ethnicity and social status throughout Europe.
The project’s objective is to bring to life UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin’s vision of ‘increasing inclusion and accessibility across the European game’ by generating positive public awareness of all the various ways everyone and anyone can play and enjoy football: from the elite professional game, to walking football for older players, grassroots women’s football and football for people with physical impairments.
At the PR-led launch event, FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi said that he believes football has the power to break down barriers as he backed #EqualGame:
“During the course of my career, our beloved sport has taught me many things, but above all it’s shown me that football really is a universal game that is accessible to all, regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation and religious beliefs,’” said Messi.
“The fact that football acts as a leveller in our society is a source of great pride to all of us involved in the game. Whilst everyone is different we’re all united by a common passion for a sport that truly belongs to each and every one of us. I’m fully behind UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign because I believe in the immense power of the sport and its ability to change our outlook on the world.”
Following the launch event, the #EqualGame campaign is primarily running across digital and social platforms and it is hubbed around a bespoke site at www.equalgame.com.
The #EqualGame web platform hosts thee personal footballing stories of several elite, amateur and grassroots players across the continent: each tale highlighting just how the sport has helped them in their lives.
These stories are told through a collection of videos, images and interactive conversations in order to provide some inspiration to show people from all walks of life that they have the right to be a part of the football community.
Star footballers playing across the continent – including Lionel Messi, Chrsitiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Ada Hegerberg – feature in the multi-platform creative alongside amateur players, members of the grassroots football community and fans
The creative pieces feature stories by stars like Pogba,
and features like his club teammate Juan Mata learning sign language,
to ‘Eddie’s Walking Football Journey’.
A hero TV ad, initially posted on the campaign’s YouTube channel, is being broadcast across Europe’s television channels during UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches: starting on 12 September at the start of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League group stages.
The adverts are further supported by a Europe-wide, multi-media awareness programme.
In an illustration of the reach and pull of players’ personal social platforms, an additional strand of the initiative saw Manchester United duo Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic promote the ‘Equal Game’ in a seemingly self-created viral video.
The narrative of this player piece sees an inquisitive Ibrahomovic ask Pogba about the ‘Equal Game T-shirt’ he is wearing, which elicits an ‘it’s not my style’ response before a seemingly unimpressed Ibrahomovich sneakily lifts an Equal Game goody bag while no one is looking and slips out of the door.
The online spot was posted, complete with script, on Pogba’s Instagram page
where it rapidly racked up more than 1 million views (far more than any of the more official campaign content pieces posted across UEFA’s own platform).
“Football is my passion and there are many reasons why I love the game,” added Manchester United and France midfielder Pogba at the campaign launch.
“People all over the world are different, but we all can find common ground in our love of football. This means football belongs to everyone, and we all should have the chance to play and enjoy it. That’s why I’m supporting UEFA’s #EqualGame campaign – it’s a chance to show that no matter who you are, and wherever you’re from, there’s a way to get involved and enjoy football. If we can improve the diversity and access to football, the game will grow and be better for everyone. I think football can help bring communities together and show, on and off the pitch, we are all equal.”
UEFA President Čeferin believes that the European football governing body that he leads should be a social fair play organisation: one with a zero-tolerance stance on racism, sexism, homophobia or any form of discrimination:
“It is vitally important that UEFA makes football accessible for everyone and, through the power of sport, becomes a global leader to fight for social equality,” attests Čeferin.
“The new #EqualGame initiative aims to help to bring the football community closer together and ensure that values such as inclusion, gender equality and the fight against discrimination continue to be at the forefront of UEFA’s vision and beliefs.”
Will #EqualGame really help re-affirm the idea that while people are individuals and play/love football differently, everyone is equal through a shared soccer passion?
Perhaps a little.
But with European also caught within the ongoing FIFA scandal, will a separate CSR equality campaign in Europe genuinely cut through the game’s current critical clutter?
The early engagement statistics also illustrate the power of the player’s own channels (as opposed to the reach of governing bodies and brands).
When Juan Mata’s involvement in this cause campaign is considered alongside his spearhead role in the recent ‘Common Goal’ initiative (see case study) earlier in August, we can’t help but wonder whether he is the most decent man in football.