As the Champions League reaches the final stages, this edition of the Social Media Plays of the Week focuses on events in Portugal – though there’s also room for energy drink obstacle courses, kit reveals, and a genuinely ground-breaking sponsorship announcement.

Will Atkins, Community Manager at The Playbook is here to run you through the most noteworthy events in sports social media from the past seven days.

Barca take a battering – but respond with a beacon of hope

The only place we can start this week is with one of the most shocking sporting results of the past few years. I’m sure you, like me, sat open-mouthed as Bayern Munich dismantled Barcelona last Friday night, and as the floodgates opened, so did the immediate reaction on social.

Alongside the memes and hot takes about the state of Barca, spare a thought for the poor social team who were forced to provide regular updates as the goals kept flying in.

There’s no easy way to sugarcoat an 8-2 defeat, and the rather obscene 95k retweets and 305k likes for the final goal shows rival fans wasted no time in jumping all over the result with glee.

FC Barcelona's social

 

To lighten Barca admin’s mood, here’s some slightly more positive content they’ve put out this week – a nice use of archive imagery to help announce the appointment of new manager Ronald Koeman.

In the same way that Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have unashamedly trawled through old footage to garner engagement around Frank Lampard, Mikel Arteta and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s playing careers – expect plenty more retro Koeman content from Barca’s channels this season.

FC Barcelona's announcement of Ronald Koeman on social

Red Bull spreading wings across sport

Elsewhere in the Champions League, we saw the unique situation of Neymar’s PSG taking on RB Leipzig – where Red Bull saw one of their highest-paid sponsored athletes up against the club the energy drink have funded as part of their marketing strategy. Welcome to football in 2020.

PSG ran out comfortable 3-0 winners – which led to Neymar taking a gentle swipe at his sponsors with an Insta Story holding a Red Bull cup. Imagine explaining that concept to someone 20 years ago.

Neymar posted on social after PSG defeated RB Leipzig

 

Red Bull’s sporting involvement expands way beyond football, which was seen in some very cool creative content with England Rugby’s Jack Nowell.

“Inspired by his fisherman roots” in Cornwall, the drinks brand set Nowell a brutal obstacle course set on a Cornish beach – a smart way to engage rugby fans and activate their recently agreed multi-year partnership with the RFU.

It’s been almost impossible to miss Red Bull around sport this week with the MotoGP Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday taking place at the Red Bull Ring, and a podium for Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen at the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix too.

And what they’re doing is working – whether you like it or, like Irish TV pundit Richie Sadlier, you don’t.

Puma celebrate David Silva – but did they get an assist from Adidas?

Manchester City's tribute to David Silva on social media

 

This week saw the end of David Silva’s time as a Manchester City player – undoubtedly one of the most important players in the club’s history, and a real Premier League legend.

To celebrate his career in Manchester, sponsors Puma created a video marking out the spots on The Etihad pitch where he provided each of his 65 home assists with a pair of boots.

If you were wondering where you’d seen this idea before – it all seems very similar to how another legendary midfielder was celebrated by his boot manufacturers, when Adidas laid out 203 balls on the Stamford Bridge pitch to commemorate each of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea goals.

Still, as David Brent said, “a good idea is a good idea forever” – and judging by the engagement on Silva’s post on social, Puma will be pretty happy with how things have gone.

Homage to Highbury

Adidas have been on top form since returning as Arsenal’s kit suppliers last year – their 2019 home shirt reveal video was a work of art, and the new away kit announcement wasn’t too far off either.

Taking fans through a guided history of the club via the marble halls of Highbury, the video contains a supreme attention to detail over Easter Eggs that are bound to get Gunners fans talking.

From a statue of a nude David Seaman, to a portrait of Kieran Tierney holding a Tesco carrier bag, Adidas have shown they completely get their target audience, and give them all the ammo to create and share plenty of supplementary content, spreading the announcement even further.

While the kit itself is pretty hideous, there’s no doubt that the German giants and the Gunners have nailed the announcement once again.

David Seaman featured in Arsenal's away kit on social

 

Rajasthan Royals talk periods

There was something genuinely groundbreaking in sport this week – IPL team Rajasthan Royals announced sanitary product supplier Niine India as their sponsors for the upcoming season.

Rajasthan Royals announced a sanitary product as their kit sponsor via social

 

The team, who Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Steve Smith all play for, will feature Niine’s logo on their backs during matches, in a sponsorship that is thought to be the first between a top-level sporting side and a company that provides products to do with periods.

The taboo-busting deal is designed to remove the stigma around talking about periods (especially in India) – and has been widely celebrated since the announcement.

Using the hook of launching on India’s Independence Day (given the aim to give women the independence to speak freely about periods), the content and tone the Royals have used has been clear and to the point, and demonstrated a genuine commitment and support of the issue.

Credit to both the team and their new sponsors for not being afraid to take a stand – and it’s great to see the deal being so warmly received across the board.

Will Atkins is Community Manager at The Playbook – the game changing communications, campaigns and content agency that has worked on the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, NFL UK, UFC and LaLiga amongst others.

For more information about how The Playbook can help you change the game, visit wearetheplaybook.com.

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