Mercedes-Benz to investigate Mesut Özil claims he was airbrushed out of World Cup campaign

Mercedes-Benz is to investigate claims by Mesut Özil that he was dropped from a pre-World Cup campaign as a result of a photograph showing the German soccer star with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mesut Özil featured in a 2017 campaign for Mercedes-Benz
Mesut Özil featured in a 2017 campaign for Mercedes-Benz

In a wide-ranging online statement attacking Germany’s football authorities, media and politicians, Özil revealed that he was quitting international football over accusations of "racism", and claims that his Turkish ancestry was being used for "political propaganda".

The Arsenal midfielder thanks brands including Adidas, Beats and footwear charity BigShoe for being "extremely loyal and amazing to work with".

However, Özil takes a thinly-veiled swipe at the German football association’s (DFB) lead sponsor Mercedes-Benz, accusing them of airbrushing him from a World Cup campaign in the name of "crisis management", and cited recent news that that company was having to recall hundreds of thousands of defective vehicles.

Referring only to a "sponsor of the DFB", Özil – a Mercedes brand ambassador since 2016 – said: "I was asked to take part in promotional videos for the World Cup. Yet after my picture with President Erdogan, they took me out of the campaigns and cancelled all promotional activities that were scheduled. For them, it was no longer good to be seen with me and called the situation 'crisis management'.

"This is all ironic because a German Ministry declared their products to have illegal and unauthorised software devices in them, which puts customers at risk. Hundreds of thousands of their products are getting recalled.

"While I was being criticised and asked to justify my actions by the DFB, there was no such official and public explanation demanded of the DFB sponsor. Why? Am I right in thinking this is worse than a picture with the President of my family's country? What does the DFB have to say about all this?"

Responding to the attack, Jörg Howe, head of global communications at Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler, tweeted that the carmaker would consider Özil’s accusations "in peace" before deciding a course of action.

"Mercedes-Benz has been a partner of the DFB and the national team for over 40 years, both in good and bad times. We will look at the allegations of Mesut Özil to the media, the DFB and the sponsors in peace, evaluate and then decide," he said.

— Jörg Howe (@Joerg_Howe) July 22, 2018

Özil starred in a 2017 ad campaign for the car marque, entitled "What drives Mesut?".

Become a member of Campaign from just £51 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content