In Brazil, Neymar, Suarez et al are all ears for the Beats

Fifa and Sony score own goal in heavy-handed attempt to ban Dre's headphones

Sound footage: Neymar in Beats’ star-studded The Game Before the Game promo video

Sound footage: Neymar in Beats’ star-studded The Game Before the Game promo video

Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 00:00

Poor Neymar. The suits in Fifa have ordered the Brazilian footballer to remove his beloved Beats headphones when in or around World Cup stadiums for official matches and media events.

The notorious Luis Suárez and others have also gotten a finger-wagging from Fifa for the same headphone offence. (And we await a sterner Fifa sanction over Suarez’s latest on-pitch transgression.) This is exactly what the Beats marketing team wants. Being banned by Fifa is yet another coup for a product that, despite being essentially a load of overpriced nonsense, places a premium on its “bad boy” status.

The players can’t wear Beats because of Sony, which is one of the official sponsors of the World Cup. Sony provided each and every player with a free pair of its headphones, but there has yet to one instance of a footballer wearing the official product. In contrast, the Beats headphones are everywhere.

The makers of Beats don’t do anything as banal as mainstream marketing. They prefer “ambush marketing” – gate-crashing a party they haven’t been invited to but working the room to great effect anyway. They pulled the same stunt at the 2012 London Olympics by giving free Beats to prominent athletes, which led the International Olympic Committee to “denounce” the headphones.

Beats don’t need to do ads – word of mouth works for them just fine. But, just to piss Sony and Fifa off, the company spent a small fortune getting Neymar to do a promo slot for the new Solo 2 headphones.

Their trendiness is the reason Apple recently paid the mad sum of $3 billion for Beats. That money was for the brand and image rather than the actual product. Beats now command the heights of the music/lifestyle economy. There’s a Beats streaming service and plans are under way for a Beats record label and Beats music festivals.

Would the same thing have happened if the same headphones were called “Beats by Coldplay”? No. Beats by Dre has the requisite whiff of ghetto cordite, the straight-outta-Compton backstory that plays into the idiot heads of the company’s white, middle-class target market.

Beats are a marketing con job: snake-oil for hipsters. They’re not bad headphones, despite the horrible overloaded bass, though there are plenty of independent studies out there, conducted by respected and über-geeky audiophiles, that conclude that Beats are, in fact, “extraordinarily bad”. Time magazine did a comprehensive study of top headphone brands (time.com/74886/best-headphones), which ranked Beats as the second worst product out of 18 tested.

There’s the sweet irony: those Sony headphones that Neymar probably threw in the bin because they weren’t “cool” enough consistently rank among the best headphones out there. Sony and a little known but brilliant brand called Shure are the only two makes worth looking at. Sure, Shure aren’t endorsed by ’slebs. But then, who wants to be seen in public wearing the same headphones as Wayne Rooney?

The boring truth matters not a jot in the music/lifestyle world. Beats have already won the World Cup image match. Incredible but true: the suits at Fifa are actually right about something: Sony does make the better headphones.

Love: The Iggy Pop Amnesty International torture campaign

Hate: The BBC’s ridiculously fawning and uncritical Glastonbury coverage

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