Neymar personifies the 21st-century YouTube footballer
The Brazilian star is as talented a marketer as he is a footballer
Past generations of Brazilian players could tell him that sometimes commercial activities have unexpected consequences. Take Gerson, who scored Brazil’s second goal in the 1970 World Cup final. Gerson smoked 30 cigarettes a day throughout his career, and in 1976 he cashed in with a TV ad for Vila Rica cigarettes.
The ad begins with Gerson sitting in a distinctively 1970s interior. As he lights a cigarette, the voiceover introduces him as “the brain of the 1970 World Champion team”. Cue footage of his goal in the final, jinking past Giacinto Facchetti and lashing a shot beyond Albertosi. Back to 1970s interior, where Gerson offers a cigarette to a moustachioed friend in a brown suit. Gerson asks “why pay more when Vila Rica gives me everything I want from a great cigarette?” The final shot has Gerson looking directly into camera, cigarette in right hand. “I like to take advantage in everything. You like to take advantage in everything too, right? Then smoke Vila Rica.”
Unfortunately for Gerson something about his pay-off line struck an unintended chord with the audience. “I like to take advantage in everything” became ironically known as “Gerson’s Law”, a motto for the casual cynicism and corruption that characterised Brazilian life. Decades of politicians living by Gerson’s Law ultimately led to the massive street protests that now embarrass the Brazilian government.
Pele’s verdict was: “Let’s forget all this commotion, all these protests, and remember the Brazilian squad is our country and our blood.” His comments were met with mass derision. Pele took to Twitter to limit the damage: “I have always fought against corruption . . . I am 100% in favour of this movement for justice in Brazil! ” Nobody cared. Pele has shilled so long for so many corporations that he years ago ceased to have any moral authority.
Neymar may not feel he has much use for moral authority. He’s just a young footballer having a good time. You just hope he understands that every time he does another ad, he sells off another little piece of himself.
Fame of a lower order than Neymar’s was too much for Stephen King, whose struggles with drink and drugs in the 1980s are well-documented.
King told the BBC in 2006 that fame was like “this wonderful banquet that the world has to offer you. And for you, it’s all free. And people pay you huge amounts of money to do it . . . So you’ve got this tremendous banquet. And you can eat as much as you want. They just don’t tell you that you’re the final course.”