The World Cup in Russia coinciding with Pride Month was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
About a week before the opening of the World Cup, Anomaly partners and ecds Paco Conde and Beto Fernandez—who recently founded creative agency Activista as part of Anomaly—came up with the idea to create a rainbow soccer jersey combining countries from five continents along with an arm patch reading, “We Belong to the Same Team.” Among the countries included were Australia, Brazil, Iceland, Japan, Senegal, Spain, South Korea and Tunisia.
Fernandez told Adweek they were inspired to launch the campaign when they learned that there are 73 countries in the world being gay, in one way or another, is forbidden—information he said “that came as kind of a shock for us.”
“I don’t think many people are talking about that,” he said. “And one of those countries is Russia.”
“Pride Month and the World Cup happening at the same time was such an extraordinary moment that we decided to do something. It was the best context to deliver this kind of message,” he added.
The World Cup also coincided with the launch of Conde and Fernandez’s new agency, Activista. “We felt this was the perfect moment to do something, and it’s something that’s going to help us define the way we are going to operate,” he said.
Fernandez and Conde worked with partners including Dutch football identities designer Floor Wesseling, Brazilian photographer, director and actor Marcos Mell, creative producer Helen Trickey and Spain-based social directors Carlitos y Patricia to quickly bring the concept to life.
“Everybody is making things happen, and in that way, we can be more agile and make it possible to do projects like that,” Fernandez said.
The “We Belong To The Same Team” jersey has received its fair share of high profile endorsements, including World Cup legend Pele; the first ever LGBTQ soccer team in the world, The New York Ramblers; presenter Francis Maxwell; L’Oréal and Paco Rabanne model Luma Grothe; and TV personality/dancer Louie Spence. It also received TV coverage in Spain.
Conde explained that men’s soccer lags behind other sports in terms of LGBTQ expression and acceptance.
“We were struggling to get support [from pro soccer players],” Fernandez said, adding that due to the stigma around the issue in the soccer world, “no one wanted to support or wear the jersey [until] suddenly Pele, the greatest of all time, said, ‘I’m going to speak up for you guys.'”
Conde added that the extent of players’ reluctance to support the cause came as something of a surprise.
“We know how hard it is for male football players that are gay to come out … but to support this idea you … just have to understand the importance of equality, the importance of diversity, the importance of freedom of expression,” he said.
Conde explained that the effort led to some hateful messages from people in countries including Egypt and Tunisia.
“That proves two things: that the campaign is getting a truly global reach—getting to places and getting to people that that kind of conversation has never reached before—and that the hate of the freedom of LGBT rights is still a massive issue,” he added.
At the same time, positive responses to the effort have been far more common, with Fernandez saying they receive emails every day from fans asking about how to get a jersey of their own. Fernandez and Conde hope the campaign can lessen the stigma of being LGBTQ in soccer and drive change towards greater acceptance.
“The amount of love and the requests for jerseys is unbelievable” Conde said.