Football Icons and Branding: Why Zlatan and Volvo are a pretty solid match. (and some aren’t)

We all have our heroes, icons, legends or… you name it. It’s all about the people we look up to. Particularly in football, many icons can be found. Despite being viewed as cocky or arrogant related to their income and luxurious lives,  some of them really have something to add. This is why having a brand ambassador definitely gives your brand a boost, but you have to be sure that you’ll have an almost flawless ambassador. Volvo and Zlatan show a great partnership of which you’ll read in the end.

The flawless ambassador

We’re talking about mantra’s or customs which will make you feel good about that person.This might be their life story or a very interesting custom they have to share. Let’s give an example: Cristiano Ronaldo, three times the best footballer in the world, does not drink alcohol, at all. He also gives a lot of money to charity and regularly visits hospitals to enlighten a child’s dream:  granting the most likely incurable sick kids the best couple of minutes in their lives.

Ronaldo’s father, Jose Dinis Aveiro, passed away at the age of 52 due to alcoholism. As a result, Ronaldo does not drink alcohol because drinking it reminds him of the death of his father. Ronaldo would offer ask him to go to rehab and address his alcohol addiction, but he always refused

This is just one of many examples of contributing to society from an aspiring profession. Obviously, there is some social demand and a lot of interest means a lot of media coverage. These stars know that they will be on tv. At the end of the day, footballers also have free time. Whether it is obligatory (in most cases) or voluntary, It’s all about the signal. ‘We are here for you and we care about our fans.’ We are lucky to be in this position and we realize this by spreading the message.’ The good feeling.  This results in a strong bond with the player or team. People tend to emphasize people who help or show vulnerability more than people who do not show these things. This empathy can be felt towards your brand as well. Soft skills. The human aspect.


It’s all about telling the story to create that bond. In a new Volvo commercial, spread out through various Social Media platforms, we see the already legendary Zlatan Ibrahimovic telling where he came from and what motivated him to continue pursuing his career. We bet you probably knew him already. Zlatan can be quite cocky and a real pain in the ass to people who hate arrogance. Let’s give you an example:

You’re probably in a good mood, assuming you have some humor and feel for irony. Let’s serve you another brilliant example people tend to hate Zlatan:

Now imagine him hiring you. Yes. It actually exists.

Alright, that’s enough. The message is clear: Zlatan is being perceived as arrogant, cocky and maybe a little bit humorous. However, the skills and abilities he showcases on the field are top-notch if not extraordinary.  Actually, he is exhibiting social proof, commitment, consistency  (by being an extremely consistent footballer) and likeability (the videos of press moments)  which are three of the main six factors of influence.

 After all, who are we to decide what he says? Isn’t it cool when someone messes with the status quo of professional, traditional and predictable? 

A bad practice

Let’s  go on with media and advertising. Companies who tend to have a lot of money sometimes go completely nuts to get an ambassador to endorse their brand (read: someone famous who can represent the brand in a positive way resulting in increased sales after a multi-million deal)  and… there might be a slight mismatch. Only time will tell if some of the features of influence can take a dramatic change. This might be consistency and likeability.

Tiger woods fail.png

Tiger Woods used to be a very consistent top-notch gold player who’s clean and professional performance and lifestyle had resulted in deals with Gillette, Gatorade, GM Motors and  AT&T. Until 2009 a major thing in his private life happened: Tiger turned out to have numerous extramarital affairs with women, who visited him more than just once as they spoke in court. Also, his performances on the golf pitch were dropping.  Speaking of which; Accenture, the consulting firm STANDS FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE. Sorry: we giggled.

Despite the long six-year relationship, Accenture was one of the first brands to pull the plug on their campaigns with Tiger and it didn’t take the consulting firm long to remove Woods from its name, despite the fact that the golfer appeared on 83% of the company’s ads. According to Accenture, their campaign is about high performance and Mr. Woods “just wasn’t a metaphor for high performance anymore.”

An excellent practice

Let’s get back to endorsing and storytelling gone right: back to Zlatan. The commercial below shows you the story of Zlatan: the Swede characterized by an immigrant background showcasing fighting, ambition and many different adventures at different clubs in which he became league champion every year. The ambitious and adventurous part particularly are interesting factors for bonding with your customers and buyers. Hearing people say or comply with being ambitious and adventurous strongly confirms that the message has been understood, resulting in a positive attitude towards your brand and eventually your sales:

This touching piece is why advertising, especially in a technically featured industry such as the automotive industry, will always succeed better with the right soft (human) approach.

However, there are still plenty of people who believe there is a huge mismatch between Volvo and Zlatan. Luckily, the social media team of the company knows where Volvo stands for.

Volvo right in the feels.png



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