To me, the evolving Bavaria Babes story raises some interesting questions about the role of the spectators at major sports events. Just to recap: During the break of the Netherlands-Denmark game, attendants seized a number of Dutch (and, if my Dutch is worth anything) South African women dressed in tight orange dresses and handed them over to the police. It seems that some of the women are now even facing some kind of criminal process in South Africa.
Their crime? Being part of a stealth marketing stunt arranged by the Dutch brewery Bavaria – while the dresses didn’t carry a visible Bavaria brand, they had been sold or distributed by the brewery and used in different publicity events. The problem was that the beer advertising slot at the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ had already been sold to Anheuser-Busch, the US company which produces the (US) Budweiser brand. And as we all know, a world cup is not big enough for two beers.
So, presumably, wearing a Budweiser-branded (orange) dress would have been acceptable to the arrangers – in fact, they would have enhanced the value of the Budweiser sponsorship as TV viewers would have seen attractive Budweiser-dressed women having a good time.
And this brings us to my central point: Leave aside all talk of a party of nations, people coming together and what not – to FIFA and the partners/sponsors/advertisers, the spectators are just props designed to enhance the experience for TV viewers (like me) around the globe.1 In fact, the people who go to major sports events are what dear old Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov called useful idiots because they pay for the trip and entry to the stadiums themselves in order to act as cheerleaders for the sponsors.2
It would be much more honest if the sponsors – whose arrangement this really is – hired the spectators and provided them with relevant outfits. In that way, the full costs of advertising would be carried by the sponsors. And there would be less risk of third parties getting a piece of the cake as the seats had already been distributed among paying sponsors.