FC Bayern Munich published today in its main web site AND on its Facebook wall, news that the team had signed a “spectacular” player for the “offensive area.” The signing, the news posts read, was to be announced at a press conference at 2 pm, CET. The countdown to the scheduled conference was already running.
That was enough to make all hell break loose.
Speculation ran rampant for the few minutes it took users to get hold of the news and jump to their accustomed forums. Names like Shaqiri, Tevez, Berbatov (well, not actually), Farfán, among others appeared as the possible signings. Then the craze over who was Cup tied added to the frenzy. What a glorious day this would be fans wrote; a day Gomez would have a new back up, a ‘spectacular’ back up! People couldn’t wait for the conference; some fans even promising to change scheduled flights in order to catch the news firsthand. Now who in the world would change a flight for a thing like this? Other than myself I mean.
Two PM; time was up. A new post appeared on Facebook:
Dear fans, you probably already noticed, that we did not sign a new player. This app is for our fans to show the importance of you for our club. Within the next weeks we will show you more videos… (Translated by Bing)
It was a hoax; a PR stunt to attract attention to an app depicting the ‘12th player.’ Again, hell broke loose. Problem was, this tide came with a different tone: Angered fans blasted the move; more than 4,000 comments followed the infamous surprise (more than 5,100 comments as of this writing and still less than 12 hours from the mentioned post.)
“Embarrassing,” wrote Justin Geiss, from Germany. “… a real shame… only make the rest of the league laugh” wrote Michi Rowdy, also a German. “Un-Bayern like,” wrote another poster, Sibi Reiplinger. The move which was meant to attract attention and healthy publicity was anything but; the Club finding itself in a PR fiasco of Facebook proportions. So much so that shortly thereafter an apology of sorts was issued:
“Sorry dear fans, as we see from your numerous comments, you are very upset about the today’s action.
It was not our intention to disappoint you with the new app. Rather, we wanted to provide you with this action in the Center and thus show how important is each fan for Bayern Munich…
Very upset were the keywords here. This post, which has generated so far an additional 3,400 comments, at least helped the fans realize that the Club was well aware of the mistake and issued an apology as soon as it realized what had happened.
The hoax, however, could not have come at a worst time. With the transfer window about to close, the team chose to go the funny route on one of the fans more sensible cords: player purchase.
Bayern Munich fans in particular are under the impression that ‘what Uli wants Uli gets.’ And yet after Uli said he wanted Marco Reus, one of this year’s most successful German attackers, the latter announced he was walking to the Dortmund camp; as if they didn’t pose a threat already to Bayern’s Bundesliga supremacy. Then our golden boy, the dream purchase of the season and the ONLY keeper with a reputation big enough to dethrone Casillas as the world’s best, showed his fans he is actually made of flesh and blood. Problem was he did so by giving a freebie to no other than Reus himself and setting the scene for a loss that put us on a par with Dortmund and Neuer’s own former teammates, the Schalke boys. “If you scripted it you could not have done a better job” a man said once. It was never more truthful than last Friday. So painful was the loss against Gladback that if the team lost in such a way after its hardships and preparations in Qatar and India, fans didn’t have to calculate further than 2 plus 2 to realize what can happen after a grueling Pokal, Bundesliga, Champions League series of possible unfortunate events.
In the team’s defense; a small portion of the posts came from fans that didn’t make much of a deal out of stunt, invoking a ‘higher’ sense of humor. The vast majority of posts, however, were hardly supportive.
It is a well-known fact that we just lost our exclusive view from the top of the Bundesliga table. With the transfer window about to be closed, van Buyten and Contento out injured and having worrisome vacancies in the striker, winger and center-back back up departments, the team decides to play a transfer hoax on tense enough fans.
Even if this was not the case, AND we did not have ANY players injured, Bayern isn’t exactly running a surplus lineup. It can be argued then that asking for decent signings is not so much blind fandomness but rather an insurance policy. Coming next May, we are going to be needing all the help we can get if we want to be players and not merely invitees at our own playing field.
In the eyes of this writer I don’t think the team was particularly trying to upset its fans but made a mistake of thinking they know its fans too well. Then they discovered they do not know them as much as they thought. As for the hoax itself it can only be described as un-tasteful; a PR stunt of freshmen quality and which puts a SERIOUS question mark on the Club’s internet approach; the core medium of communication for most of its fan base. Hell, if they can’t handle Facebook, we are in for a bumpy ride… Honestly, I have seen better campaigns from marketing students at pre-graduate levels, not from one of Europe’s most successful football clubs.
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