By: Ben Feinman, Roland Warns, Madison Prestine, Brandon Bodnar
The Leeds Scholars trip to Argentina offered us new experiences regarding the Argentine sports culture and the business aspect behind it. The Argentine people love their soccer, and it is evident through the many different ways they display their passion. A specific example was our River Plate tour guide Patrick, who exemplified more commitment to a team than any of us have ever seen. Not only was he energetic for the duration of the tour, literally yelling about the team, but he also proudly showed us four River Plate tattoos scattered across his body. The fans are so intense that our Austral guides were adamant that we not wear the colors of River Plate’s rival, Boca, blue and yellow, or even joke about supporting Boca anywhere in the vicinity of a River Plate fan. Fans around the city did not visually display their loyalty as much as anticipated, as we saw only a handful of jerseys during our time wandering around the city. However, the overall support amongst River Plate fans was stronger than any fan base we have ever previously experienced.
The fanaticism was not more prevalent anywhere than when we had the opportunity to attend the River Plate match versus Racing Club, in the largest stadium in Argentina. Up to 45 minutes prior to the start of the match, a group of fans in the hooligan section began engaging in various chants. The hooligan section is not for the average fan, as the fans in this section are the rowdiest amongst the entire stadium. Just before kickoff, the band started playing in the hooligan section, which ignited the entire section to begin chanting, and from this point on, the chants persisted up until the final whistle. From the words we could recognize, their chants were either supportive of River Plate or derogatory to the opposition and their family members. Our experience at the game was like no other, as none of us have never witnessed a more electric environment at a sporting event.
We also got to explore another viewpoint of Argentine soccer through our tour of the stadium and meeting with the River Plate marketing director. While walking around on the soccer field, we noticed the major brand names that were covering the stadium, specifically, Coke, PowerAde, and BBVA Frances. This is a testament to the impact of this club, because large multinational corporations feel it is beneficial to associate their brand with River Plate. During our meeting, the director provided us with an elaborate presentation with information regarding the marketing strategy of the team. There were two main takeaways from the marketing presentation. The first takeaway was that River Plate receives free marketing from many local fans. For example, when River Plate recently won the Argentine Primera division, a small business encouraged the club to paint their van in advertisements for the team. Another example was a diehard fan volunteered to develop their ecommerce website free of cost. This happens frequently when the team is experiencing success. The second was the main goal of the marketing division for the club. They target youth and adolescents to build a fan base in the future. Also, marketing to opposing clubs’ fans is a lost cause because of the intense loyalty of Argentine soccer fans.
Overall, the trip was an unforgettable experience, and presented us with strong insight into the world of Argentine sports.