The perils of hero worship notwithstanding, Puma chief marketing officer Antonio Bertone doesn’t think man’s love for sport is unhealthy—especially when compared to our obsession with celebrities, “Teen Mom and crap like that.”
So, when David Droga of Puma agency Droga5 this year proposed testing how much guys love their favorite soccer club (the Puma-sponsored Newcastle United) compared to their wives and girlfriends, Bertone wasn’t the least bit put off. After all, Droga’s experiment fit nicely into “Love = Football”—Puma’s soccer mantra since 2009. The outcome, however, caught Bertone by surprise.
Psychologists from the University of Bristol conducted the research, using 17 men whose relationships and tenure as season-ticket holders had both lasted at least five years. Each was shown photographs of his team and his significant other and asked to cut them in half, while electrodes attached to their feet gauged emotion in the form of electrodermal activity. They also answered questions.
All but five of the men were married and their average age was 46, according to a white paper that the researchers subsequently produced. Droga5 recorded the experiment in a nine-minute video that feels like the YouTube cousin of Fever Pitch, the 1992 ode to soccer that put Nick Hornby on the map.
“When I saw the first edit—because I wanted to experience it myself as much as possible—I was blown away,” recalled Bertone. “I was like, ‘Get the fuck out of here. Really?’”
In the end, the ladies won. Participants loved their partners “marginally more strongly” than their team, the white paper reported. So, does the outcome restore Bertone’s faith in humanity or, as a sports marketer, is he bummed out?
“It restores my faith in humanity,” he replied, laughing at the question. “At the end of the day, I’m a big family person, you know what I mean?"