by Danielle Styles

Your copywriter’s desk and the Maracanã stadium probably seem poles apart, so Brazilian football isn’t going to be an obvious place for you to find copy inspiration. But I’ve unearthed some parallels that might surprise you. As Brazil’s 2014 World Cup campaign reaches a critical stage, here are four ways that you should be taking your lead from the boys in blue, gold and green.

1. Play with words

A quick read through the starting line-up for any Brazil match soon reveals a characteristic quirk – there’s something rather odd about the players’ names. From Pele to Zico and Socretes to Hulk, the names emblazoned on the back of Brazilian footballers’ shirts rarely match those on their birth certificates. Wordplay is rife in Brazilian football, with the nicknaming of players being the most obvious example. It also comes out in the legendary poeticism of Brazil’s commentators, whose tendency to wax lyrical has resulted in terms such as pernas de pau (wooden legs) for bad players, and frango (chicken) for a fumbling mistake committed by a goalie. Verbal creativity makes for vivid commentary that sticks in your head, and the same principle can be applied to your copy. As long as the tone’s appropriate for your brand, and it’s not overdone, metaphor can make your writing more memorable, and therefore more powerfully persuasive.

2. Stir the emotions

Brazilian footballers don’t score goals. They score gooooooals! And the difference between a goal and a gooooooal is passion. The passion Brazilians have for football is a major reason why they’ve become the most successful national team in World Cup history. Emotion is an incredibly powerful motivator, and this is as true for writing as it is for football. Our brains process information emotionally before they process it rationally, which means we’re usually much more persuaded by our feelings than logical thoughts. So when you’re writing copy, remember to paint a picture of emotional benefits as well as rational ones.

3. Challenge convention

As much as they love the beautiful game, Brazilians aren’t content to just play it straight. With characteristic creativity, Brazilian people have chopped and changed football to come up with some unique sporting alternatives. At the wackier end you have ‘autoball’, a 70s craze in which players drove cars into a huge ball in the hope of rebounding it off their bonnets and scoring a goal. Then you have footbull (not a typo) where a grumpy bull is deposited in the midst of a five-a-side match to spice it up. Slightly less bonkers are footvolley (a football/beach volleyball hybrid), button football (a kind of football tiddlywinks) and futsal (indoor football). What unites these football alternatives is the addition of a totally unrelated element – be it a car, a bull or a mere tiddlywink. And this age-old creative technique of putting two unlike things together is something you as a copywriter can use – to spark off original and attention-grabbing concepts. The marriage of two unconnected elements can give your copy the intrigue needed to make people stop and pay attention, just as the comparison between football and copywriting might have drawn you to this post.

4. Love what you do

You might think that a nation who’ve been crowned World Cup champions five times are all about winning, but that would be to miss the point. As Alex Bellos puts it in his brilliant book Futebol, ‘Brazil is not a country of winners – it’s a country of people who like to have fun’. Take a leaf out of the Brazilians’ book, and fall in love with whatever it is you’re working on. If you enjoy your work, you’ll always perform better. There’s a sound body of scientific evidence to say that people have more insights when they’re relaxed, and are more creative when they’re happy. Copywriting may be tough, but it’s also creative, mentally stimulating and rewarding. So the next time you get a mental block, try to take the pressure off and have fun with it. You might just see a ripple of ideas come to the surface. And if all else fails, get up from your desk and samba. For more copywriting tips and signposts to useful content, follow me on Twitter!


The alternative footie examples came from Alex Bello’s Futebol: the Brazilian way of life. This hugely entertaining account of football culture in Brazil – its history, passion and quirks – is definitely worth a read.

My thanks also go to Jack Lang, whose fascinating post The Beautiful Language on the Roads and Kingdoms blog provided the insights into football-related wordplay.

Join the conversation...