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Dial Marcelinho: Soccer's Most Innovative Marketing Stunt

Posted by John Hickey on



In 1998 the São Paulo State Soccer Federation, of Brazil, noticed that the clubs it governed weren't doing well. The "Big 4" of the state, São Paulo FC, Palmeiras, Corinthians and Santos, hadn't won a major title in 3 years and the Federation decided to do something to shake things up.

The Federation decided to pull a marketing stunt, it bought Marcelinho Carioca from Valencia for $7million USD and would give the player for free to one of the previously mentioned "Big 4" clubs. Who got Marcelinho would be decided with a telethon they named "Disque Marcelinho" (Dial Marcelinho). Fans would call in and donate 3 Brazilian Reais and the fan base who raised the most money would get the midfielder.

There were a few problems with this plan, all stemming from the fact that Marcelinho Carioca was already an idol of Corinthians, the club he played for during 3 seasons before joining Valencia. São Paulo, as an institution, had publicly expressed interest in the player, but the fans largely rejected his potential arrival.

The animosity was even bigger with Palmeiras, neither the clubs' fans or the player himself wanted Palmeiras to be his destination. Marcelinho even admitted that he almost didn't agree to the whole thing because of the possibility of playing for Palmeiras, but at the end he trusted the Corinthians fans to come out in bigger numbers. Even the promotional jersey created to advertise the campaign (as seen in the picture above) had the Corinthians crest strategically put over Marcelinho's heart.

A few days into the Telethon it was reported that Santos was actually in the lead, but after a few more weeks the final results came out as expected: Corinthians 62.5%, São Paulo 20.3%, Santos 9.5% and Palmeiras 7.7%.

From the point of view of Marcelinho and Corinthians it couldn't have gone better. The player ended up where he was always wanted and the club was able to bring back an idol at zero cost. Corinthians would go on to win multiple major titles in the following 4 years and Marcelinho was a big part of that success.

From the point of view of the State Federation the results were debatable. Unofficial reports say the telethon raised only $2 million USD, much less than the $7million they had spent, but staff claimed that regardless the marketing move was a net positive due to the attention it created and how innovative it was.


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