Blogging the News With Robert Mackey
June 16, 2010, 12:31 PM
World Cup Marketing Stunt Leads to Arrests
By ROBERT MACKEY
Updated | 4:40 p.m. In the months leading up to the World Cup in South Africa, fans planning to attend the tournament were repeatedly warned about the dangers criminals might pose to their enjoyment of the spectacle. What officials apparently failed to anticipate was the threat to the spectacle posed by fans armed with short dresses.
On Wednesday, police in Johannesburg arrested two Dutch women for allegedly breaking the country’s laws against “ambush marketing” by attending Monday’s Netherlands-Denmark clash clad in short orange dresses distributed by a Dutch beer company, and enticing 34 other women to join them in their criminal enterprise.
South Africa’s Mail and Guardian reports:
The dresses were sold with Bavaria Beer packs in The Netherlands in the run-up to the World Cup, and FIFA says the group wore them to Monday’s Netherlands-Denmark match as a marketing stunt in defiance of its strict commercial regulations at matches. The women were detained during the match at Johannesburg’s Soccer City and taken to a FIFA office where they say they were questioned for several hours.
In a statement on the arrests of the two women, who were later released on bail, the Johannesburg police force defended the arrests, saying, “These women, who have been part of a larger group, are suspected to be involved in organized acts to conduct unlawful commercial activities during the Denmark-Netherlands match.” Officials added: “We view ambush marketing in a very serious light and we urge people not to embark on these ambush campaigns.”
The Guardian noted:
The Netherlands’ foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, was quoted by De Telegraaf newspaper as saying the arrest was disproportionate and senseless. “If South Africa or FIFA want to go after a company for an illegal advertising campaign, they should start a legal case against the company and not against ordinary citizens who are walking around in an orange dress,” Verhagen said.
From Amsterdam, Radio Netherlands explains that for the stunt, which took place in the stands during Monday’s game, the three dozen women “allegedly dressed as Danish supporters, but soon stripped off their red and white gear to reveal orange mini-dresses marketed by the Dutch brewery Bavaria.”
According to the Dutch broadcaster, after the entire group was removed from the stands on Monday, “three Dutch women were subsequently taken for questioning for two hours. One of them, Barbara Castelein, says they were put under considerable pressure by the South African authorities, treated roughly and threatened with six-month prison sentences.”
Ms. Castelein is indeed involved in marketing back home in the Netherlands, as her Linkedin profile makes clear. She is also mentioned on the Web site of a Dutch marketing company that has started a “Support Our Babes” campaign and online petition in honor of the women who were ejected from Monday’s game. Among the other demands listed on the campaign Web site are: “No ban on beautiful women in short dresses” and “The right to the beer of our choice to drink.”
Here is a video report on the incident (spotted by a reader on The Telegraph’s Web site) which includes an interview with a woman who appears to be Ms. Castlestein and an explanation from a FIFA official on why the dresses are a problem:
The idea appears to have been to bring to life the scenario depicted in this Bavaria beer commercial, released in advance of the World Cup:
As my colleague Jeffrey Marcus reported on Tuesday, Budweiser has paid handsomely for the right to be the “official beer” of the World Cup — perhaps to make up for the fact that it was not among the winners of the 2010 World Beer Cup. Radio Netherlands notes that the guerrilla marketing campaign seems to have been viewed by the organizers as an underhanded attack on “The Great American Lager.”
The women were ejected from the stadium for wearing the so-called “Dutch Dress” being marketed by Bavaria as “the first World Cup item made specially for female supporters.” FIFA is, of course, obliged to protect the official sponsor of the World Cup. [...]
The dress has become very popular in the Netherlands and caused a minor “beer war” even before the start of the World Cup. Sylvia van der Vaart, wife of Dutch soccer star Rafael, took a prominent part in the Bavaria campaign — rather embarrassingly for rival Dutch brewer Heineken, the sponsor of the Dutch national team.
Here is a Bavaria beer commercial featuring the Dutch midfielder’s wife wearing the dress:
(news item from nytimes.com)