Arsenal Football Club vs. Mesut Özil and Gunnersaurus: A Relationship Gone Sour.

Arsenal Football Club vs. Mesut Özil and Gunnersaurus: A Relationship Gone Sour.

You may have heard recently that Arsenal Football Club have made the decision to relieve club mascot ‘Gunnersaurus’ of his duties, after 27 years of being with the club. As Arsenal are one of the biggest football clubs in world with an incredible amount of financial backing and turnover, this decision did not go down well with Arsenal fans or the general public.

How can a football club spending £350k a week on a player who keeps the bench warm justify sacking a fan favourite mascot, who would be on a much more humble wage packet? That player in question, is German World Cup winner Mesut Özil and this is where this story gets very interesting, going much deeper than it initially seems.

Mesut Özil joined Arsenal from Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2013 and immediately made an impact on and off the pitch. As well as being recognised for being world class on the pitch, Mesut has been praised for many of the things he has done off the pitch as well. He boasts 25 million Twitter followers and 22.2 million followers on Instagram. This is in comparison to Arsenal, his employer, which has 16.4 million followers on Twitter and 18.4 million on Instagram. His social media presence is massive, and there have been many occasions which he has used his large platform for good causes.

In 2014, Mesut Özil was announced as an ambassador for the ‘Big Shoe’ initiative which uses the FIFA World Cup as inspiration to fund operations for young people around the world. The 2014 World Cup took place in Brazil, and while the tournament was ongoing and Mesut was on the pitch winning the World Cup for his country, he funded 11 operations for children in Brazil the host nation. He promoted this project across his social media to raise awareness of this charity and the cause. Most recently, he has helped 40 children get life-changing surgery in Myanmar, Southeast Asia through this charity. This charity work gave Mesut lots of good publicity and was well backed by many football fans online who praised Mesut for his generosity.

However, this story begins to turn sour when in December 2019, Mesut used his platform to raise awareness of a much more different issue, the mistreatment of the Uighur Muslims in China. He released a statement across all of his social media accounts to raise awareness of this issue and was quoted as stating that the Uighur Muslims in China were “warriors who resist persecution”. Mesut himself is a Muslim and this was an issue clearly close to his heart, however this did not go down smoothly with the Chinese population or his employers at Arsenal.

China immediately reacted by pulling one of Arsenal’s games from the state TV schedule and some Chinese fans even burnt his jerseys in protest. The most significant statement however, came from Arsenal who made it clear that these were the views of Mesut and not of the football club by stating the club “always adheres to the principles” of not getting involved in politics on the Chinese social media site Weibo. Arsenal’s statement was an attempt to keep China on their good side as at the end of the day, Arsenal are a business with millions of Chinese fans and to cut off that revenue stream would be quite idiotic from the outside looking in. However I believe there comes a time to stand up for what is right and in this instance, Mesut is in the right. This is a crisis I would not have been aware of if it were not for the Germans statement and I was not alone in the view that Arsenal’s “statement” if you can even call it that, was very disappointing.

This all coincided with Özil dropping out of the team as the club took on a new first team manager. It’s widely accepted that this is due to his lack of form when he was playing, however is it worth questioning whether or not these public disagreements off the pitch has contributed to his lack of playing time? I think it’s possible, especially as this PR battle did not end here.

We are all now well aware of the shocking events that took place in America in which George Floyd was killed by an American police officer, which resulted in the more prominent promotion of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Premier League and all of its clubs backed this movement by displaying Black Lives Matter on the back of jerseys and players taking a knee before each game as the league kicked off again during the Covid-19 pandemic. Arsenal were very vocal in their support of this movement with lots of content on social media tagging #BlackLivesMatter.

All of this left Mesut scratching his head as when it came to the Muslim crisis in China, why was he was left on his own? Özil was supportive of the BLM movement and this is something him and the club agrees on however it must have been bittersweet to think that after their reply to his statement in December, they’ve now got involved in this as heavily as they have. He did an interview with sports outlet The Athletic and was disappointed in Arsenal and was quoted as saying “I have given a lot to Arsenal, on and off the pitch, so the reaction was disappointing. They said they don’t get involved in politics but this isn’t politics and they have got involved in other issues.”

This brings me onto the most recent news and the latest in this PR battle between the high profile star and his football club, beloved mascot Gunnersaurus. The man in the suit is called Jerry Quy and has held the job of being Arsenal’s mascot for 27 years, however he is the latest Arsenal staff member to fall victim to the Covid-19 sackings. He along with 55 others have found themselves redundant as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. These redundancies have not been received well by football fans as this is a football club who can afford to pay around £1 million in wages to players and coaches each week, but can’t afford to keep low level staff who are on much lower wages.

The latest and most high profile sacking however was Gunnersaurus. This already was giving the club a bad name, but then Mesut Özil decided he needed to do something about it. A day after the news broke, Özil released a statement on his social media “offering to reimburse Arsenal with the full salary of our big green guy as long as I will be an Arsenal player so Jerry can continue his job that he loves so much”. A very classy move by Özil which was applauded by many across football including young superstar Kylian Mbappe.

However, how bad does this make Arsenal look? Having a player cover the cost of your mascot’s wages? And of all players, it’s Mesut who has publicly has disagreements with the club before? It does not shine Arsenal in a good light at all, once again. Some may be of the opinion that Özil is doing this so publicly as a way to embarrass the club as payback for the previous issues between himself and the club. There are rumours that Arsenal did plan on giving Jerry his job back once fans were allowed back in to the stadiums and this had all been blown out of proportion however there has been no official word of this as of yet.

A relationship that started so rosy between Arsenal and Mesut Özil has soured in recent months and has the potential to end as a PR battle between both parties with Mesut’s contract due to expire in 2021. So far I would say that Mesut has won this battle of the statements as his bravery to use his platform to speak up on these issues is to be applauded. Arsenal may not have come out of this looking the best that they could, but they could still have the last say on this if they decide to bring Jerry back. At the moment it’s all up in the air about Mesut’s future at Arsenal Football Club but I also doubt that this is the last PR war the two have against each other.

Phelim Sweeney is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn.

The Realities of Racism in the UK

The Realities of Racism in the UK

For centuries now there has been a global demand for racial justice. This is not a new demand, as those who have been colonised and enslaved, denied freedom and opportunity have been calling out for racial justice for generations before our time. We have come a long away from the brutality of slavery that ended in the UK in 1833, 32 years ahead of the US which isn’t really something to be proud of. However, as a country we have progressed tremendously in tackling racism and have little tolerance for it happening around us. People tip toe around the topic of racism and often try to avoid seeing it but for many black people in the UK still do this day, it is their lived reality.

During the summer months, the major focus in the media was the Black Lives Matters Movement. People on every corner of this planet in some way were affected by this protest which came alive after the brutal murder of George Floyd which shook me and many others to the very core. The uproar for equality after his murder rippled throughout the world and many actions were taken to abolish racism for example, many of the worlds largest brands were quick to support the BLM Movement, in the UK statues and monuments of people with links to slavery were taken down and millions of pounds were raised for the George Floyd fund which helps fight racism.

The UK took a stand against racism as millions of people marched in the BLM Movement protest to fight for racial justice however the counter narrative pushed back on these protests was that Britain is not racist like America so what have the black community got to complain about? Well for a start to even compare the two shows little intelligence on the matter, the fact that racism is still relevant in the UK is the problem. One look at the replies under the Sainsbury’s tweet for their Christmas campaign will have you second guessing that question.

On the 14th November, Sainsburys tweeted their ‘Gravy Song’ advertisement as part of their Christmas Campaign, staring the black actors Deenie Davies and Ademide Bodunde. The advertisement portrayed a black family who were yearning to spend Christmas together which is perfectly normal. However, Sainsburys encountered major backlash from racist twitter accounts slamming the supermarket for only including a black family. Responses such as, “Absolutely sickening”, or “Where are the British people? What fresh hell is this?” or even “You may as well rename yourself Blackbury’s!”, “You’ve managed to completely alienate the few remaining white customers you still had”, amongst many others that are too offensive to re-share. People actually threatened to boycott Sainsbury’s after seeing this ad which is hard to believe and just shows that racism is as prevalent as ever in the UK today. Sainsbury’s were forced to respond, “At Sainsbury’s, we want to be the most inclusive retailer. That’s why, throughout all our advertising we aim to represent a modern Britain, which has a diverse range of communities. We have three stories of three different families in our advertising.”

Imagine feeling so privileged to expect every single TV advert to feature someone that looks like you and anything less is an outrage to our society? In my opinion, the Sainsbury’s ad is a realistic representation of a black family in the UK and this shouldn’t be a problem in 2020, in fact we should be applauding this behaviour. But sadly, Sainsbury’s are not alone with having backlash for supporting the black community. Recently 24,500 complaints were made to OFCOM which is the most in this decade, for the performance dedicated to Black lives matter on Britain’s Got Talent by the dance group Diversity. They also received complaints about Alesha Dixons choice of jewellery that said BLM as a means of protest during the show. The UK even went as far as scrutinising Marcus Rashford for investing in property worth over 2 million pounds as a way of undermining the amazing work he put in to get underprivileged children free school meals during this pandemic.

Following the controversial Sainsbury’s advert, it turns out that Tesco have been accused for cutting out a black couple in their latest food advert as they fear they will receive backlash, according to model Vanessa Vanderpuye. The model showed behind the scenes footage on her Instagram of her and a black male starring in the Tesco advert but when the advert came out, they were nowhere to be seen without any explanation as to why they had been cut. Tesco denied that the actors’ race had anything to do with the decision for them to be cut from the advert and stated that, ‘At Tesco, we believe that diversity in our business makes us stronger and our advertising campaigns are designed to represent everyone, showing the breadth of the communities and customers we serve’. I find this very hard to believe, in fact it’s quite embarrassing.

The UK is on the verge of progressing racial justice however there are so many Britain’s out there who still hold outrageous and outdated racial views. We are slowly learning what it is to make decisions that decisively reject racism but the few of many examples I have talked about here are what’s holding us back from equality and it needs to stop!

Aloisia Loughran is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Beauty of Social Media Activism

The Beauty of Social Media Activism

On the surface the beauty industry appears to simply arm customers with products to enhance their confidence, alter their appearance or provide a sense of glamour. But it has long been so much more than that. Dating back to the Suffragette movement, the use of red lipstick was a powerful political statement, arming women with the bold and powerful armour needed to stand up independently and fight in the face of inequality. Today, the beauty industry remains saturated in activism. Something which is extremely important in an era dominated by a turbulent political landscape. The consumer journey is now so much more than simply purchasing products; customers want to support businesses that are driven by a strong political message which aligns with their own.

“Aligning ourselves with beauty brands that are using their platforms to empower, embattle and break down boundaries, puts the power back in our hands,” says Cult Beauty founder, Alexia Inge

In May of this year, the world was spun into global unrest regarding the futile murder of George Floyd. Many large beauty companies were quick to utilise the reach their social media platforms have in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement; and in speaking out against these injustices. While these words of support are important for educating their consumers on such issues, it’s also important for these brands to act. American beauty giants, ColourPop, extended their condemnation of such inequalities by pledging to donate to organisations working to support black communities. To coincide with this, they stated that they were also committed to create change by promoting representation and inclusivity.

Beauty brand, Deciem, also showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The beauty community’s relationship with inclusivity has not been observable throughout the decades. In 2018, Tarte received backlash as they debuted a new foundation with a range of only 15 shades, with only 2 of these accommodating darker complexions. These static beauty standards had once again neglected a huge proportion of its consumers by excluding those unable to find their match. It is surprising to learn that just a few months later, the Fenty Beauty brand burst onto the scene having an explosive impact later named #TheFentyEffect. The brand was launched with 40 foundation shades – a far cry from what Tarte had released just months earlier. It would be selling the Fenty brand short to label this effect as anything short of innovative, as this range of shades has now become the norm and consumers are refusing to accept anything short of this!

David Kirkpatrick, writing for MarketingDive, found that while social media has provided companies with many benefits, from growing consumer bases to engaging in fast communication with customers, the negative effects can prove detrimental to companies. He found that 81% of U.S. consumers believe social media has rapidly increased brand accountability. Q3 Sprout Social Index administered a study, which uncovered that consumers are prepared to call our brands on social media, with millennials being the most likely to do this. It is interesting to note, 56% of these millennials had admitted to having complained about or had called out brands on social media. This research indicates the emphasis brands must now put on reputation management to ensure they do not encounter the same hurdles Tarte did.

More recently, beauty brands have been exercising this political activism in emphasising the importance to their consumers in voting in the upcoming US election through various social media driven campaigns. While many companies have been forthcoming expressing their political opinions; history was made when a new brand appeared on the scene as “Biden Beauty”. Yes, you heard right, Biden Beauty is in fact a real beauty brand! The company is selling a blue, beauty makeup sponge and encouraging their consumers to use this to create a makeup look to wear to the polling station. All profits from the company are being contributed to the Biden Victory Fund in hopes that this will secure a win for the Democratic party.

Beauty brand, Alleyoop, was also in favour of encouraging their customers to vote. The brand has pledged to give away a free item with a value of up to $20 to everyone who makes the trip to the polling station. The first 50,000 people who vote will be able to avail of this. This product giveaway could potentially cost the company $1 million. Brand owner, Kashani, described how they must do something crazy to change the voting statistics. Well, it’s definitely crazy!

Sharon Chuter, founder of inclusive makeup brand, Uoma Beauty, stated that “Gen Z is putting their money where their values are…”. She believes consumers are more willing to shop with companies who use their platforms to spread awareness of political issues; and who share the same values as their consumer base. However, it is important for brands to navigate this uneasy landscape with care as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of performative activism. In which companies are aligning themselves with political activism simply to appeal to consumers and drive sales; but the heart of the company is not in creating change. Chuter again shared her opinion on this issue, depicting her worry that brands will now see activism as a marketing tool, which will quickly become more dangerous than helpful.

On the surface, the beauty industry appears to simply arm customers with products to enhance their confidence, alter their appearance or provide a sense of glamour. But it is and always has been, so much more than that.

Cheyenne Doyle is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Linkedin – Cheyenne Doyle and Instagram – Ch.eyenne