Sport: Rio talks back

Rio Ferdinand, the England defender who has appeared in ads for brands ranging from Nike to Sport England, discusses his relationship with advertising and the media.

Does the media treat sports people fairly?

The problem is that there are too many over-hyped stories. Look at the way the England football team is treated. When we lose a game, we're suddenly the worst team in the world. The media need to find the middle ground and stop going overboard.

Do you enjoy the media spotlight?

Yes and no. To be honest, I never thought about the fame and the money that comes with football when I was growing up. All I thought about was becoming a professional footballer. I must admit, when I'm recognised in the street it adds a satisfying twist, but sometimes I'd like to be able to walk down the street in peace.

What's your funniest football anecdote?

When I was at West Ham, we were always waiting around for the kit. It was first come, first served. Even if it was freezing cold, you'd get what was left. One day, John Moncur was last to emerge from the dressing room, dancing around in just his boots and a pair of pants.

What would you change about the media?

The whole invasion of privacy thing. There's too much scope for reporters to invade people's lives, and it's gone too far. They go through bins, camp outside houses and follow people everywhere. OK, so people need publicity, and some seek it. But it's gone beyond a joke.

What's the most unusual product you've been asked to advertise?

Condoms. I'm not saying it's not a good idea to promote safe sex, but I wasn't too keen on having my picture on a condom packet. It would have been a bit too weird.

Are there things a sportsman shouldn't advertise?

Yes: drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

What's your favourite ad?

The Scotch Tape video tape ad with the dancing skeleton. It had a really catchy song to it: (sings) "Re-record, don't fade away."

What was the last ad that made you go right out and buy the product?

IPod, probably. And a Lilt ad I saw recently. They make it look so refreshing, don't they?

What's the worst ad you've ever seen featuring a sports star?

David Ginola in those L'Oreal ads - flicking his hair, saying "I'm worth it" and all that palaver. Bit girly for me.

Which ads have you starred in?

Too many to mention. Loads for Nike, McDonald's, Sport England and Xbox.

What's your experience of working with people in the ad industry?

Ad people tend to overcomplicate things. The best ads are those that keep it simple. Humour works best, and this applies to football, too.

I like the recent McDonald's ad - for the Big Mac Meal promo. A bloke's walking down the street with his missus. She trips and he chants: "She fell over, she fell over, she fell over ...". It gets me every time.

Do you like advertising, or do you fast-forward through the ad breaks?

Not usually. I like a good ad, me. Peter Kay's hilarious in the John Smith's "no nonsense" series.

What are your favourite brands?

My favourite cars are the Aston Martin Vanquish and the Range Rover Sport.

Clothes-wise, I go for Vivienne Westwood, Abercrombie & Fitch and Ben Sherman (I've just done a pre-World Cup campaign for its new casual wear range).

What's on your iPod?

Top of the list are Kano, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, and plenty of roots reggae.

If you were a brand, which brand would you be?

It would have to be an Aston Martin: high performance, fast and aggressive when it needs to be. Oh, and quite pleasing on the eye, too.

Are footballers good role models?

Actually, yes. Look at it this way. When I was a kid, if a local MP came into school to talk to us, he'd lose me almost immediately. I wouldn't listen to 90 per cent of what he said. But if a footballer, an actor or a singer - someone inspirational - came in with something positive to say, they'd have me glued to them from the moment they walked in to the moment they left.

What's your favourite newspaper?

The Sun.

What are your favourite sports shows?

Soccer AM. I love that show. Radio's a tricky one. I'm can't say I'm a fan of Radio Five Live. Once I was listening to them chat about my so-called contract dispute with Man United. I understand that people have issues to discuss, but they were making assumptions based on what they'd read in the papers, without knowing the facts. So I called them to set the record straight. I love music, so I prefer to listen to Tim Westwood, Chris Moyles and Trevor Nelson on Radio 1 and Xfm Manchester.

Will people watch football on their mobile phones at this year's World Cup?

I don't think so. There are too many pubs showing the games. Whenever England play, work stops and people rush into their locals to watch it.

Who's your favourite sports pundit?

Ian Wright. He's honest and always says what he thinks. Martin Tyler and Jonathan Pearce are pretty good, too.

What are your interests outside of sport?

Music is the big one. I've just launched a record company called White Chalk Music with a friend, Courtney Richardson. We're also set up to produce music for films and ads - drop Marilene a line on marilene@whitechalkmusic.com. It started in March with a talent show we ran for youngsters in the North-West. The winners have already produced the music for Team Saatchi in the latest Domino's Pizza ad and the music to the Man United Everyday Sport DVD and are working on a film. They could become massive pop stars. Who knows?

It's all about giving kids a foot in the door and helping them gain a bit of experience.

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