Belgium’s largest beer brand Jupiler has partnered with the country’s Pro League association of soccer clubs to help promote the league's new anti-racism campaign ahead of local fans’ gradual return to stadiums, which is slated to begin this Friday.
The ad from BBDO Belgium, titled “Bring Passion Back, Keep Racism Out,” focuses on all the elements of soccer matches that have been absent since February when fans were barred from attending in person: no chants, no cheers, but perhaps most importantly, no racism. Jupiler and the Pro League hope the latter stays that way.
“Football wasn’t the same lately. We all missed the passion of a full stadium. What we didn’t miss was the negative aspects of it, like racism. We’re glad to see fans come back next weekend, but at the same time we hope that racism doesn’t return,” says Stijn Van Bever, the Pro League’s Head of Communications.
The commercial is “a call to all football fans,” Van Bever adds. “If we all recognize racism and condemn it, we don’t let it come back.”
Set to run on major Belgian TV channels including Eén, Vier and RTBF starting this week, the 40-second black-and-white spot will also run on the Facebook pages of the Pro League and its clubs.
The BBDO-produced ad hopes to change perspectives in professional soccer, which has a checkered history with race in Belgium and across the continent. Late last year, KV Mechelen midfielder Marco Ilaimaharitra left a match in tears after a Belgian fan shouted racist slurs at him.
“We’re glad to see [soccer] come back, but hope that this time racism doesn’t,” says Jupiler’s marketing manager Josse Peremans. “As Belgium’s biggest beer brand, with a heritage in football, we see it as our responsibility to support and spread this message.”
Fans’ long-awaited return to stadiums this week also signifies progress for Belgium on the COVID-19 front; the European nation once had one of the highest coronavirus mortality rates in the world with up to 16.4 percent of confirmed patients dying at the height of the pandemic.