Heineken®’s social experiment highlights the uglier side of the beautiful game and aims to give online sexism the red card.

AMSTERDAM, [14th SEPTEMBER 2023]: Former England international players, turned pundits Jill Scott MBE and Gary Neville tasted life in a different dugout as part of a Heineken® social experiment entitled, ‘The Social Swap’ aimed at addressing gender bias when it comes to women sharing their opinions about football on social media.

‘The Social Swap’ co-created by agencies LePub and Edelman, saw Jill and Gary secretly switch social accounts for five days to share their genuine views on matches, from the use of VAR to team rivalries and match predictions. The only catch? Jill was posting from Gary’s account, and Gary was using Jill’s account.

The experiment acted as a reminder of football’s journey to become more inclusive, with Jill’s account receiving 5 times more sexist responses compared to Gary’s when sharing similar points of view and commentary online. Example responses to the pundits’ posts during the swap illustrating gender bias:

Heineken Experiment - The Social Swap

Check out a short film of the pair discussing the experiment, including some of the sexist reactions from social media users, here.

In addition to using ‘The Social Swap’ to highlight the issue of gender bias in football conversations online, Heineken® is kicking off the new football season by unleashing the power of AI to help fans blow the whistle on online sexist toxicity and ensure all fans can freely share their opinions without the fear of abuse.

Thanks to Heineken®’s new partnership with Arwen AI, a limited number of football supporters will be granted free access to its AI-powered online moderation tool. The Arwen AI tool lets users filter negativity from their social media feeds by hiding any unwanted or offensive comments and spam.

Jill Scott MBE says: “Attitudes have definitely changed, but there’s no doubt that female fans, pundits and players still get a lot more online negativity than men due to gender bias. You develop a thick skin – but we shouldn’t have to. Some people have probably been left a little red-faced by this experiment but hopefully it’s reminded everyone of the need to kick gender bias out of the game for good. Anyone can be a fan of sport, regardless of gender and it’s time to remember this.”

Gary Neville says: “The heated debates and rivalries are what makes football so exhilarating. But when negativity is linked to gender, this goes too far, especially from behind a screen. By putting myself in Jill’s shoes and seeing the reaction, I have seen first-hand the uglier side of this sport that I love and want to make it clear that football is for everyone. On the pitch and online, we should treat each other with respect no matter our gender, race, sexuality or what colour shirt we’re wearing.”

‘The Social Swap’ is a joint creative campaign from Heineken® global creative lead, LePub, and its global PR lead, Edelman UK. The bold creative idea embodies the brand’s ethos of tacking societal issues whilst maintaining their witty tone of voice that speaks to fans around the world to drive to change in a positive way.

This activation is part of Heineken®’s ‘Cheers To All Fans’ UEFA sponsorship platform, which aims to level the playing field for all fans by tackling the issues that prevent them from having an enjoyable, inclusive experience.

Nabil Nasser, Global Head of Heineken® Brand says: “Heineken® wants to be the most inclusive sponsor in football and ‘The Social Swap’ shows not only the unfair imbalance in football fan culture but also how important it is that we all give gender bias and online toxicity the red card! As well as tackling the issue head on by calling out harmful practices, by teaming up with Arwen, we are excited to be able to be leveraging new AI technology to help fans ditch the negative noise and for this new season keep conversations about football, just about football.”

Bruno Bertelli, Global CEO LePub, Global CCO Publicis Worldwide, CCO Publicis Groupe Italy says: ‘I really hope this project will boost visibility towards football’s wrong and stereotypical assumptions. The social swapping between Jill and Gary, demonstrated that we necessitate a more progressive attitude to gender equality. When it comes to football – the world’s most popular sport – we can’t any longer turn a blind eye to these types of behaviours. It must be a welcoming environment for all. With this campaign Heineken® has taken a clear stance and a new step towards demonstrating that a mindset change is needed.’

Stefan Ronge, Co-Chief Creative Officer EMEA at Edelman said: “Heineken®’s Social Swap campaign is a fantastic example of a credible change-making brand action. Our belief and creative approach is that brands that take action earn trust. In business and society. Audiences increasingly expect brands to take a stand on societal issues and use their cultural and commercial influence to inspire meaningful change from the ground up. The barriers to women’s safe and equitable enjoyment of football are unacceptable, and we are proud to be Heineken®’s co-creative partner as we continue to advance their mission to build the most inclusive sponsorship platform in world football.”

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