The Fight Against Racism Rises in Japan

Let’s not parse words: when headlines related to racism in football make the rounds, it’s understandable to assume the story must be related to one of the countries that’s been associated with racism in the past. Russia, Italy, Poland, maybe even the Ukraine… but Japan? Really?

Earlier this month, fans of prominent J-League club, Urawa Red Diamonds, unfurled a banner that read Japanese Only near the entrance to a dedicated fan section. Targeting foreigners, the banner is the latest in a string of incidents related to the club, coming on the back of discriminatory chants towards South Korean and Brazilian players, and most recently towards their own Tadanari Lee, a South Korean-born forward who plays for the Japanese National Team. Still worse is the fact that team management were made aware of the banner during the match, but neglected to force its removal, concluding that there was no racist intent in the banner’s message. 

Rather than wait the storm brought about by global media coverage, the J-League responded with a substantial punishment: a one-game supporter ban for the Red Diamonds, effectively forcing them to play in front of an empty stadium during a recent fixture.

In a nation where right-wing nationalism is being pushed by hard-line Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, a man who has done everything but officially deny the Nanjing Massacre, this is certainly a strong message. That said, while some might suggest that recent headlines coming out of Japan involving anti-South Korean graffiti and government-sanctioned revisions of Japan’s history suggest a widespread trend, the reality is that those on the fringe are often the loudest. 

Here’s to the J-League for making their voice heard, and taking a heavy stance against racism. [Posted by Maxi

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Mario Balotelli makes headlines; and he did so both on and off the field with his customized boots last week. As AC Milan took on AS Roma, the vain Italian forward marched onto the San Siro wearing white boots covered in newspaper headlines about himself and with no obviously visible boot manufacture.
And no brand dared to own the conversation either.
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The story did not end here. Before another ‘Derby della Madonnina’, Balotelli revealed through Twitter, his new boots and sponsor, with “Why Always PUMA” beaming the headline. This move became possible following the expiration of his previous deal with Nike.

Mario, who all the brands were trying to sign – not just PUMA, is very happy with the move and said: “This is a great move for me. From the early conversations I had with PUMA it was clear that they understand me, my personality and my ambition.”
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Staying on the subject of the 2014 World Cup, we can expect Nike to hero both their global key athletes Neymar and Ronaldo, adidas with Messi and now PUMA with their man Balotelli. There are, of course, many other top footballers associated with these brands, but these guys are placed in their own exclusive category.
With both the Italian national team and Balotelli now represented by PUMA, we’re looking forward to a new approach from the brand, high quality video content and an exciting Italian home shirt launch, in line with their main competitors. Previously, PUMA has been below-par with their marketing campaigns, such as the recent Aguero and Bolt speed training video.
PUMA may not possess the sponsorship power of adidas or marketing flair that fuels Nike, but with the addition of Balotelli to their squad and winning the Arsenal sponsorship contract the future for Puma could turn things around. My advice is to break all the rules, go crazy with the Italian superstar and create beyond memorable headlines. He’s the ideal footballer to shoot Puma into the limelight.
It’s a new beginning for the brand and Balotelli. We’ll see you both soon.

This piece was written by our Managing Editor Dominic Vieira. Comments below please.

Can Mario Balotelli revitalize the Puma football brand?

Mario Balotelli makes headlines; and he did so both on and off the field with his customized boots last week. As AC Milan took on AS Roma, the vain Italian forward marched onto the San Siro wearing white boots covered in newspaper headlines about himself and with no obviously visible boot manufacture.

And no brand dared to own the conversation either.

Read More

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