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Beats By Dre Sparks Some Controversy With Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas

The “Hear What You Want” campaign wades into the fire of Spain’s El Clasico.

Is it possible to call every game between two teams a classic, if they play each other more than once a season? For fans of soccer giants Real Madrid and Barcelona it is. They are arguably the biggest two clubs in the world, accounting for more than 60% of Spanish football fans and have been home at some point to the last 19 winners of FIFA’s world player of the year award. Some are calling their most recent game the game of the century. It was this century’s 43rd clásico.

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Many millions of fans and the overall emotion of the world’s top soccer teams is enough, but add in the historical and political past between these two clubs and the rivalry goes far beyond the usual The Sports Team From My Area Is Better Than The Sports Team From Your Area. It’s into this cauldron of emotion that Beats By Dre went wading with the latest spot for its “Hear What You Want” campaign.


We see Barcelona (and Spanish national team) star Cesc Fabregas getting ready to play Madrid and face the fury of an opposing fanbase–just as we’ve seen in previous North American editions starring the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Kevin Garnett–but this one’s a bit different. There are entire books written about the depths of this rivalry. That or a quick Google will show you just how much the feelings between these two teams go far beyond anything in North American sports.


Perhaps wary of stoking the already long-burning competitive fire, Barcelona club president Josep Maria Bartomeu wants to get the ad off the air, telling Spanish media, “We don’t like the message it sends out, which is why we have asked for it to be withdrawn.”

The brand subsequently issued a statement of its own. “Beats would like to reiterate that the scenes in our new commercial starring Cesc Fabregas are purely fictional. The images in the commercial do not reflect real images. The views and thoughts of FC Barcelona or Real Madrid have not been involved or consulted in the making of this advert.”

As a major international star on one of the world’s biggest clubs, Fabregas is a great pick for the brand. And on the scale of insane soccer fan behavior, the ad’s depiction of Madrid supporters is pretty tame. If Beats really wanted to be controversial they would’ve went with Celtic and Rangers.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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