Billboard Faces: Goalkeepers Take To Advertising Like Naturals

By Will Murray

News • Jan 31, 2024

Billboard Faces: Goalkeepers Take To Advertising Like Naturals

Ever the showmen and women of the beautiful game, goalkeepers have had their fair share of the advertising spotlight…

Adverts can be tedious at the best of times. We see them every day on TV and on social media, whether we like it or not. 

Footballers appearing in adverts is not uncommon. Consider Lionel Messi and David Beckham in Adidas commercials or Gareth Southgate, Stuart Pearce, and Chris Waddle in a Pizza Hut advert. 

The most marketable footballers have traditionally been the goalscorers and creators who grab the headlines in key moments of big matches. In the last decade, however, we’ve begun to see a shift towards goalkeepers being increasingly used in adverts.

Brands are increasingly seeing the marketing potential of goalkeeper endorsements. Perhaps it is the increased understanding about the importance of a top-performing goalkeeper to a functioning team. Or it could be a nod to the engaging goalkeeper personalities currently in both the men’s and women’s games that are too reputable and unique for brands to ignore.

Key phrases and slogans specific to goalkeeping are embedded within these adverts, with similarities between them. 

Mary Earps’ pre-tournament advert with Adidas before the 2023 Women's World Cup included phrases such as ‘Mary Queen of Stops’, ‘play until they can’t look away’, and, most notably, ‘safe hands’. The phrase ‘safe hands’ is written on the screen at the start of the advert and is closely followed by Earps comfortably catching a ball.

Alisson Becker featured in an advert for the World Health Organisation (WHO) in December 2019. Liverpool's number one promotes the importance of health and support for workers across the world. He concludes his 25-second monologue by glancing to his right, catching a football and looking down the camera to say, “The world is in safe hands with WHO.” I’m sure you get the drift.

Other recent adverts featuring goalkeepers have decided to go down the comedy route. Aaron Ramsdale featured in Arsenal’s advert with local chip shop, The Chip Inn Fish Bar, in February 2022. Ramsdale is no stranger to fan interaction and playing along with chants directed towards him by opposition supporters. 

In this advert, Ramsdale is seen ordering a large portion of chips, prompting the rest of the people in the shop to say ‘Oooooh’. This continues until Ramsdale turns around with the large chips and the whole shop shouts ‘your chips ahhh’ in unison. It references the ‘you’re s*** ahhh’ chant goalkeepers often receive when they take a goal kick. 

It's a chant that Ramsdale has engaged and joined in with in the past, particularly during Arsenal’s 2-0 away win at Leicester in October 2021.

Other adverts with goalkeepers have gone in completely different directions. If you asked the average football consumer to think of a football advert involving a goalkeeper, Joe Hart’s partnership with shampoo brand Head & Shoulders might finish near the top of the ranking. 

The partnership lasted for four years, starting in 2012, when the English goalkeeper was playing for Manchester City. The adverts including Hart ranged from the bizarre to the ridiculous.

One such advert that split opinion began with Hart clutching his head in pain during a match. We later find out that a potential concussion is not the problem, as the physio applies Head & Shoulders to Hart’s hair to treat his ‘itchy scalp’, allowing him to continue uninjured. I’m not sure that would pass the FA’s current concussion protocols.

There were various other adverts during the course of this partnership. Arguably the funniest was in the run up to the 2014 World Cup. Hart is seen applying Head & Shoulders in the changing room before walking out to the pitch proclaiming, “the weight of the nation’s hopes on my shoulders, but I can’t show any of that. My head has got to be sorted.” 

However, the clip, that went viral, of Hart kicking the advertising hoarding and screaming at a ballboy, “Hey! Hey! Give me the f****** ball” in England’s first game of the tournament against Italy didn’t quite match the message.

You’d have thought, with the mixed press and mockery Hart received, that he’d be the first, and last, goalkeeper to partner up with a shampoo brand. However, in 2016, Iker Casillas and Manuel Neuer followed suit appearing in a Head & Shoulders advert. 

This advert focuses on the three goalkeepers. The mood reflects the constant pressure on their shoulders as the last line of defence. But Casillas is, in fact, carrying a bag of balls on his shoulders. Are we meant to feel sorry for him? 

The strapline reads: “Shoulders are meant to carry a lot. One thing they won’t carry is dandruff”. Cut to all three stars enthusiastically washing their hair – with Head and Shoulders, of course. 

While the Mars bar advert of 2012 doesn’t feature a specific goalkeeper, it is worth mentioning. Before the Euros in 2012, Mars released an advert featuring England preparing for a penalty shootout, but the goalkeeper is being stretchered off with an injury. 

The camera then cuts to a steward in his yellow jacket eating a Mars bar, who then takes off his jacket, goes into goal, and saves two penalties, including one strike from Robin van Persie, to win England the shootout. If only goalkeeping was that easy. 

There are other examples of the goalkeeper trend in adverts, such as David De Gea playing the drums for a Manchester United shoot with Adidas in 2017 and Craig Gordon promoting Sure Deodorant in July before the 2019/20 season. 

Although they were not as common, goalkeepers featured in adverts in the 1990s and 2000s. The acting and messaging was predictably questionable. More recently, Peter Schmeichel was mocked by his CBS Sports colleagues for the Danepak bacon commercial he did in 1998. 

In the advert, Schmeichel is dressed up as a butcher and plays various musical instruments while singing about the delights of Danepak bacon. Schmeichel’s sheepish looks while watching it back says it all as the rest of the CBS crew, including Jamie Carragher and Thierry Henry, laugh at his expense. 

David Seaman also featured in a slightly bizarre advert for Curry’s in 2004. It features shots of Seaman making saves with a customer behind him, while the narrating customer goes around the store and shows off the appliances and electrical goods involved in the “giant summer sale”. The advert ends with Seaman catching the ball and telling the customer, “can’t miss that one”.

And finally, who can forget René Higuita, the maverick Colombian goalkeeper who performed the infamous scorpion kick save at Wembley in 1995. Given Higuita’s eccentric tendencies, he was a shoo-in for a set of curious Colombian adverts, including one for the fruit juice Frutiño. 

Higuita played a starring role in the 1990 Frutiño advert, where he is seen buying juice in a shop from a child, then proceeding to play football with the child and his other friends. Higuita performs his trademark scorpion kick save in the advert, five years before he did it at Wembley, so he had clearly been practising. 

The advert ends with Higuita taking a sip of the Frutiño juice before looking at the camera and saying “de pura frescura!”, which loosely translates as “pure freshness”. 

Goalkeepers in adverts is something that has been around for decades. As we’ve seen, they are hardly Oscar-winning performances. What is convincing, however, is that goalkeepers are increasingly being used as attractive commercial propositions for brands to use in their marketing strategies. 

Attitudes are clearly changing towards goalkeeping and there is a growing appetite to represent the discipline as attractive. This is particularly helped by trailblazers like Mary Earps, who continues to show her strong personality on the pitch, but also off it through her social media activity. 

Earps, Alisson, and Ramsdale’s recent adverts suggest that the quality of commercials including goalkeepers are getting better. It’s a great trend and long may it continue. 

But enough about the dandruff please.

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