The Obama Administration wanted to advertise Obamacare during NFL games this fall, but the NFL turned them down (although some individual teams have agreed to help out). But what if every ad during every football game were political? That’s the case in Argentina.
In 2009, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, inaugurated “Football for All,” a government program that provides free viewing of soccer matches to Argentina’s citizens. The hitch? No private (or very little) advertising is allowed. Only government-sponsored ads can be run. These ads are almost always political in nature and cast the Kirchner government in a very positive light.
And how much have taxpayers in Argentina paid for the privilege of watching TV ads promoting their own government? According to La Nacion, a Buenos Aires daily, more than $4 billion in the past three years. Talk about corruption and cronyism! The Kirchner administration even used its clout to reschedule football (soccer) matches to reduce the size of TV audiences when opposition politicians are interviewed.
The really sad thing, though, is that the gambit appears to be paying off. Argentines know the football commercials are wasting taxpayers’ money, yet the ads have improved Kirchner’s public approval ratings.
As football season gets underway this week, many Americans are looking forward to rooting for their favorite team while relaxing in front of the family flat screen. Sure, the commercials are sometimes tiresome and sophomoric (although they can also be very funny)—but at least they are usually not political. In fact, part of the appeal of the NFL is that it lets people take a vacation from politics. So next time you are tempted to complain when you see one of those stupid beer ads on Sunday, just be glad you are not in Argentina.