SBD/March 16, 2011/Franchises

Lead Sponsor Bell Canada Not On Board With New Whitecaps Campaign

Vancouver Whitecaps jersey sponsor Bell Canada said that officials from the MLS club "overstepped their bounds" in a new marketing video featuring a "body-painted female model," according to Matthew Sekeres of the GLOBE & MAIL. In the video, which has "gone viral with more than 33,000 hits on YouTube," the model "has a Whitecaps jersey painted onto her body, including the Bell logo across her chest." Promoting the Whitecaps' first MLS game on Saturday, the video concludes with the question, "Where will you be March 19?" Novelist Anne Giardini, a "prominent Vancouver forestry executive," sent an e-mail to Whitecaps and Bell execs, "asking them to explain the video." Bell Associate Dir of Media Relations Marie-Eve Francouer said, "We understand that they’re an exuberant new team eager to get the word out, but this marketing effort clearly didn’t fit with Bell’s expectations." Whitecaps Dir of Marketing Kim Jackman said that the promotional video was "intended to demonstrate the passion soccer fans have for their sport, including the tradition of body-painting and how it is done." Jackman added that it was "edited specifically to be an 'artistic expression' and that it was not released until female members of the Whitecaps staff had provided feedback on its appropriateness" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/16).

OUT OF LINE? In Vancouver, Daphne Bramham writes there is "no question who the Vancouver Whitecaps is selling to with its ad and video featuring a sultry 'kit model' being spray-painted into a 'uniform' with the Bell logo across her breasts." Jackman "denies the images are highly sexualized." She said, "We see the images as bringing out the passion people have for the sport." But Bramham writes it is "infuriating and a bit sad that the Whitecaps organization, which has done so much in the past to promote soccer at all levels for boys and girls, stoops to this when it is attempting to build community support for its new major league team." Former Canadian Olympic swimmer Marion Lay "was shocked by the ad." Lay: "It is a terrible representation of women." Jackman yesterday defended the ads as an attempt to "show some of the passion that soccer brings out in people." She added, "Fans do paint their faces and their bodies. ... We wanted to tap into that in some way that was appropriate. Google soccer, women and body paint." Bramham writes, "I did. The Sun's Web administrator denied access to some of the photos. Others appeared to be models on porn sites or in front of ads for porn sites. Only one image appeared to be a fan" (VANCOUVER SUN, 3/16).
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