Here it is! My very first guest post by linguist (and husband) Ramón Parrondo! If you like it, encourage him to get his own blog, to be called Banteralia, up and running quick smart!
Over the last four years, La Roja (the Spanish national soccer team) have been assiduous visitors to the Plaza de Cibeles, having completed an unrivalled run of three major titles (two European Championships and a World Cup), a feat that attests to an unprecedented generation of highly talented players.
Recently, thousands of exultant fans cheered them on once again as the open top buses ploughed towards the pagan goddess who is habitually the epicentre of Real Madrid celebrations.
The fervour of national pride seemed to ameliorate the effects of one of the deepest economic recessions the country has ever endured. For a couple of nights, large crowds of revellers, draped in red and yellow, drank the city dry and danced on the streets ( since the fountain at the centre of the square was out of bounds and heavily guarded by police).
Marketers were, of course, keen to get in on the action. Adidas´ slogan, “La Roja is all in” was emblazoned on every available space:- not that 99% of the fans either knew or gave a toss about what it meant. Spaniards who “know” English as a foreign language would have found this particular message too obscure and difficult to understand….
…… which is just as well, or instead of celebrating a victory they may have felt the need to seek urgent medical attention for the jaded, depleted, exhausted players limping back to Madrid, thoroughly knackered!
Well, that´s what “to be all in” means doesn´t it? To the native speaker of English the phrase immediately has connotations of defeat and tiredness (rather than the specialised meaning that would readily be understood by poker players).
What on earth made the Adidas marketing “wizards” choose such an odd motto?
And more to the point, why did the Spanish sport authorities, surely eager to capitalise on such a historical occasion, forfeit the chance to show the world that, in addition to soccer talent, Spain’s other main export is its language and culture?
The answer to the first question has to be a dumbass approach to marketing. We´ve recently been subjected to campaigns by sports equipment multinationals enshrining a “cool-dude” approach to challenges (“Just do it”), or using reasonably intelligent attempts at word play (“Impossible is nothing”).
But the phrase “to be all in” is positively the worst one, especially when it is the centrepiece of the “biggest” (and most expensive, one might add) campaign in the history of the firm, as has been reported.
I can appreciate that the lingua franca status of English is sufficient grounds for putting the catchphrase in the global language, but wouldn’t it have been sweet if they had employed linguists to localise the slogan? (That would have pushed up the price, of course, but not by much, if my rates are to go by).
It also beggars belief that not a single, official body that organised the event (Madrid City Hall, the Spanish F.A. and various other government departments) objected to having an unintelligible slogan presiding over the celebrations of an unrivalled run of victories for the national side.
Even some of the most hallowed Spanish institutions which regulate language use and its promotion were oblivious to the incongruous display that was taking place on their very doorstep (the Royal Academy of Language and the Cervantes Institute are within a stone’s throw of Cibeles).
Shouldn’t the authorities have demanded that the sponsor’s slogan be localised?
What if Germany – perish the thought – had won the U.E.F.A. European Championship? Would Die Mannschaft also be “all in” on their return home? Or would “Les Bleus be “all in”?
… but you would never get “The Tartan Army is all in” splashed all over Edinburgh, out of native linguistic competence, of course. (Also because the Scots never win anything – then again, maybe the slogan´s apt for them since they often look “all in” to me!).
So, Adidas, take note. Here’s a free piece of localisation for the next triumph:
“La Roja va a por todas” – La Roja´s up for anything!
Let´s hope they´re up for Adidas.
Read all about La Roja: