The Suarez Bite: Meme, Real-Time, Low Latency, NewsJack

From internet meme to real-time and low latency, and from ambush activity to news-jacking, when it comes to contemporary marketing jargon, the Suarez Bite has become the go-to World Cup trend story:


The Suarez/Chiellini bit story spread socially like wildfire and marketers around the globe couldn’t resist the opportunity to leverage the trend to promote their brands and attempt to engage their fans


Fans created countless comic bite memes online with popular themes including Jaws, Hannibal Lecter and vampires.


Within 24 hours on Twitter the #Suarez  hashtag has been used 3.1m times, #BanSuarez 55,000, #Bansuarezforlife 2,5000, #Bite 6,500, #Suarezbite 5,000 and fellow sports biter Mike Tyson also received 25,000 mentions.


While a Buenos Aires resident called Diego Suarez who has the Twitter handle @Suarez was overwhelmed by tweetsforcing him to post ‘Please stop. I am not Uruguayan, I am not Luis Suarez.’


Luis Suarez genuine Twitter handle is @luis16suarez (he has 3m-+ followers).


A phalanx of official partners activated around the story in real-time and ambush brands were busy newsjacking the trend.


From official World Cup sponsors like McDonald’s, Budweiser and Listerine, to ambushers like Philips, Nando’s, Trident and Whole Foods, brands across the globe jumped on the chance to leverage fan interest in / outrage about the Suarez bite.


Of the official World Cup partners, the fast food retailer and FIFA World Cup sponsor McDonald’s was one of the first to pounce on the furore, using its Uruguayan Twitter handle to tweet Suarez with a jovial plea to take a bite out of a Big Mac if he’s hungry.


US beer brand and FIFA sponsor Bud Light jumped on the bandwagon tweeted an image of someone trying to open a bottle of the beer with their mouth alongside the copy ‘Relax, they’re twist off. #biting #ITAvsURU’.


While FIFA sponsor Johnson & Johnson brand Listerine advised ‘We recommend a good swish after grabbing a bite of Italian. #WorldCup #PowerToYourMouth’.


Ambushers were unsurprisingly quick to respond to the ‘free hit’ too.


Whole Foods joined the fun with a message saying ‘This can be your dinner…ITALIAN FLANK STEAK PINWHEELS #WFMdish’, while restaurant chain TGI Fridays posted ‘I think it’s safe to say Uruguay was hungry for the win.


Nando’s in the UK took a similar approach tweeting ‘Hey @luis16suarez, if you’re that hungry, why not get your teeth stuck into something really tasty?’.


While #EatASnickers trended after tweeting ‘Hey @luis16suarez. Next time you’re hungry just grab a Snickers,” together with a picture saying, “More satisfying than Italian.’


While Philips didn’t waste any time either and through its ‘Sonicare’ anti-floss product tweeted ‘Perfect if you have a bit of Italian stuck between your teeth’.


Even rights owners couldn’t resist leveraging the story.


In the USA, the MLB took a cheeky swipe at football’s growing popularity in the US with a picture of baseball player biting a bat captioned by the message “There’s no crying #biting in baseball”.


The brands less likely to focus on the funny side are Suarez’s sponsors and the striker risks losing lucrative commercial deals


With echoes of Nike’s recent discomfort around their ambassador campaigns for Tiger Woods, lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorious, Suarez sportswear sponsor Adidas may regret its choice of ad copy after posting a picture of the controversial striker with the strapline ‘The perfect weapon’ just hours before the match.


As an official FIFA partner, the German sports behemoth has less flexibility to laugh off the incident. Especially considering it was previously reported to have warned the player about his behaviour last season when the brand rebuked Suarez after a similar biting incident in the Premier League.


After previous warnings and threats, can the brand really continue to back and pay the player and present him as a role model and brand ambassador and still save face?


Adidas’ response is likely to depend on the outcome of FIFA investigation of the incident.


As yet Adidas hasn’t publicly commented on the matter, but fellow Suarez sponsor poker brand 888 was quick to respond on Wednesday announcing that it was reviewing its endorsement agreement with him.


‘Following the allegations made against Luis Suarez in regards to his behaviour during Uruguay’s World Cup match against Italy, 888poker is seriously reviewing its relationship with the player as we will not tolerate any unsporting behaviour,’ said an 888poker statement.


However, other sponsors may be quietly pleased about the increased attention based on the age-old marketing mantra that ‘all publicity is good publicity’.


One of these companies could be Abitab, who’s 2013 comic Uruguay TV spot starring the striker and themed around has dirty reputation has suddenly become an overnight YouTube hit around the world with more than a million views.



It has even spawned consumer-created reworkings.





The perfect case study of real time activation, of low latency ambushing, of consumer social memes and of how live brand newsrooms are essential to major events?


We’ll, not quite, because few brands genuinely gained traction through their responses. While the best consumer-created comment was consumed and shared with enthusiasm, most of the brand work (from both sponsors and ambushers) failed to generate the same degree of spread and engagement.


Was this because fans don’t really want brands to be part of this kind of conversation? Or was it because most of the brand work just wasn’t sharp or witty enough?


It might have been Brazil 2014’s ‘oreo’ moment for real time marketing, but it didn’t quite achieve Oreo-level success.


Some have suggested that it encapsulates the current debate about the value of official rights in the web era – but not us!




Luis Suarez Twitter



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