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Marketeer of the month

By The Drum, Administrator

August 27, 2004 | 6 min read

He may look like a cross between Mr Burns and Dracula but, when it comes to scoring off the pitch, Sven Goran Eriksson has a strike rate that George Best would be proud of. However, for once in the results-hungry world of football, Sven’s team probably aren’t that happy with his penchant for displaying silky skills in the box.

The Faria Alam affair, or affairs to be more precise, rocked the FA to its very foundations, delighted the tabloids of this very nation, and had males nationwide wishing they’d followed his vocation. Whether it’s down to the power of his position (have you read Ulrika’s book?), his hunky ‘nuclear technician’ charm, or even his Rohypnol-heavy aftershave (allegedly), one thing is indisputable: that man is an animal. If Barry White was the rhinoceros of love, then surely Sven is at least the tortoise. Hear him roar, ladies, hear him roar ...

Anyway, seeing as this is a marketing magazine, we’re not here solely to joke about SGE’s ability to “slot one in from any angle”. Instead, we’ve decided to focus on his tactics when dealing with the tenacious tacklers of the British media. Has he played a blinder or, quite simply, scored the mother of all home goals?

“He was right to maintain his silence,” was the opinion of our first PR pundit, Charles Tattersall of Manchester’s Citypress. “It’s his policy not to comment on his private life. If he broke this, it would open him up in the future – it also gives him the moral high ground.”

Although it’s questionable what moral high ground a serial philanderer can lay claim to, most of the comms first team we quizzed agreed with Tattersall.

“Yes,” said Target’s Andrew Smith, when asked if Sven was right to initially stay schtum. “The minute the manager of the national team starts playing with the red tops is the minute he, quite literally, takes his eye off the ball. He pretty much played it right and was seen to be carrying on steadily at a time when his leadership was in question after Euro 2004. Waiting a week and then giving his only interview to BBC Sport was a very good, considered move as well.”

He added, “[Sven’s] steely ‘Professor of Football’ image is probably just what we need. There are enough characters in the game right now.”

GBCS PR’s Trevor Palmer felt inclined to agree, and noted: “He is the Ice Man. His public has come to expect his emotionless response to, well, almost anything really.”

However, one PR player seemed to be heading off with the ball in a different direction, strongly disapproving of Mr Eriksson’s “shut up shop” tactics. Let’s hear the stadium go wild for Sue Flynn of the Whole Caboodle.

“Even though the questions posed about the affair with Faria Alam were intrusive and personal in nature,” remarked Flynn, “maintaining a silence was never a good strategy.”

“Sven’s role is an immensely public one and, as such, keeping quiet was never going to make the press walk away cap in hand. His three-word reply, ‘It’s all nonsense,’ heralded the start of a monumental communications cock-up. Even though (according to the man himself) he was referring to the hub surrounding the controversy rather than the actual affair. This resulted in the FA issuing the denial, without any consultation of the main protagonist.”

Flynn obviously plays a different system to her peers, but both she and they interlink seamlessly when it comes to their assessment of the (not so sweet) FA.

“Being such a high-profile body, they should have sought the help of external PR professionals before doing anything,” opined GBCS’s Palmer, passing the issue straight to the feet of our striker Flynn: “The whole issue of naive deal-making and deception by PR savvy people who should have known better combined to create the perfect recipe for a PR disaster,” she commented. “What the situation does highlight is the importance of clear, concise crisis planning, not simply management. The FA should have had – and followed – a fully thought through plan, with any external communication whatsoever being approved by all parties prior to issue. This simple but effective step would have ensured consistency of approach, reducing the possibility of ambiguity and confusion.”

Bosh! Straight in the back of the net!

The big question now, though, is how has Sven’s image emerged from the whole sordid episode?

“Largely unchanged,” is Tattersall’s simple assessment. “He’s been linked with other women in the past, so it just cements his image as a manager who plays away from home. However, because these stories run and run, the media focus shifted from his personal credibility to his professional capability. This gave the press a platform to question his on-the-pitch decisions during the European Championships, which has been the most damaging aspect of the scandal.”

Julie Hayes of Weber Shandwick agreed: “England’s poor performance was a disappointment to the entire nation, which had built up high expectations (yet again!) and the media will naturally link the two issues. If England had lifted the Euro 2004 trophy, Sven’s activities off the pitch would not have dominated the headlines in the same way.”

Palmer from GBCS United concluded with a fine parting shot: “Recently, famed Chelsea fan Mr Mellor put it best when he claimed that Sven would have got away with sleeping with the FA’s guard dog if he had won Euro 2004. We are a fickle bunch in this country and I am sure that he will be forgiven his sins if he generates some results and vigour from the World Cup qualifiers.”

In the meantime, let’s just hope the Swedish Lothario doesn’t generate any more “vigour” off the pitch. Now that’d be a result.

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