Neymar under fire after World Cup 'mea culpa' advert

Brazilian soccer player Neymar takes part in the Neymar Jr's Five youth soccer tournament in Praia Grande, Brazil, Saturday, July 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)
Brazilian soccer player Neymar speaks with reporters during the Neymar Jr's Five youth soccer tournament in Praia Grande, Brazil, Saturday, July 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)

SAO PAULO — Neymar's decision to use a sponsored advert to admit he sometimes over-reacted to fouls at the World Cup has backfired, with Brazilian marketing experts saying it had made the Paris Saint-Germain striker's image even worse.

Under the title 'A New Man Every Day,' Sunday's video was backed by personal care products maker Gillette and broadcast on several Brazilian TV networks.

"You may think I exaggerate. And sometimes I do exaggerate. But the truth is I suffer on the pitch," Neymar said in the advert, referring to the constant fouls he received at the World Cup.

"I took long to accept your criticism. I took long to look at myself in the mirror and become a new man."

Brazil was knocked out by Belgium in the World Cup quarterfinals earlier this month.

Marketing specialists said the advert damaged the 26-year-old player's brand as much as his histrionics did in Russia.

"The whole market waited 15 days since the end of the World Cup to hear from him," Amir Somoggi, a partner at marketing company Sports Value, told The Associated Press.

"He gave some interviews, but did not admit his exaggerations then. Now he has hidden behind a TV commercial to do that. This was great for the sponsor, after all we are talking about the brand. But it was not good for Neymar, who now has an even bigger image crisis to handle."

Sports marketing consultant Erich Beting believes the timing of the advert was a mistake.

"Neymar's problems happened on the pitch, and he will not play tomorrow to show he has changed, as the ad says. That fact, and his decision to pick an ad to do it, will make it all sound empty. It will be weeks until he has a chance to show any real improvement," Beting said.

Jose Colagrossi, another sports marketing consultant, agreed.

"It would be different if he really meant it, in a live press conference, looking eye to eye and not in a sponsored video," he said.

It is not the first time Neymar has used an advert to handle an image crisis.

In 2011, he was criticized for constant misbehavior and he used an advert sponsored by phone carrier Nextel to address his fans.

"You cursed at me when I made mistakes, you screamed when I didn't listen," he said in the ad. "You know who I am. Only another happy boy playing with his ball."

Now, some of the criticism for the image crisis is aimed at Neymar da Silva Santos, his father and the man who manages his career.

Ricardo Fort, who heads global sponsorship deals at Coca-Cola, said the Brazil striker needs to take control of his career.

"After this World Cup, who thinks of Neymar thinks of theatrics, faking. These are attributes that no brand wants to get associated with," Fort wrote in an open letter to the player in Monday's edition of magazine Meio & Mensagem.

"It is time for you to hire a professional to take care of your career. You are too valuable to be treated like that."

Asked to comment on the negativity, Neymar's staff directed the Associated Press to Procter & Gamble, owners of Gillette. The company did not discuss the criticism of the player, or the ad.

"Like many others, Neymar Jr. faces challenges, injuries and defeats, and the objective of Gillette is to encourage every man, with no distinction, to reflect on the opportunity of becoming a new man every day," the company said in a statement.

The firm also denied a report by newspaper O Globo saying the striker was paid about $250,000 for the ad.

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