Living La Vida Boca

Shoppers in Buenos Aires survey products related to Argentina's popular Boca Juniors soccer club. Aggressive merchandising has made the team's logo nearly ubiquitous.
Shoppers in Buenos Aires survey products related to Argentina's popular Boca Juniors soccer club. Aggressive merchandising has made the team's logo nearly ubiquitous. (Photos By Monte Reel -- The Washington Post)

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By Monte Reel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 13, 2007

BUENOS ARIES -- Two days before he died this year at the age of 101, Gaspar Paino leaned close to his daughter and whispered one final request.

"He told me, 'Don't you forget -- I want to be cremated, then take me to the cemetery of Boca,' " Norma Paino said.

Her father had lived just long enough to witness an incredibly pervasive merchandising assault by his favorite soccer team, Argentina's Boca Juniors, that has put the blue-and-gold team logo on just about anything that can be sold, from cradles to graves.

So Norma Paino secured a plot for her father's ashes in a licensed, Boca-themed section of a cemetery that opened late last year. The team shield is stamped on gravestones. Blue and gold flowers are planted in the green lawn.

"It's something very, very special," said Paino, whose father played for the club in the 1920s, when the Boca logo was not even displayed on the team uniforms. "To see the team insignia there in the cemetery, to see all the flowers in team colors -- it was powerfully emotional."

Tapping into such passions is something Boca's marketing department has explored with such relentless vigor in recent years that traditional displays of team spirit -- jerseys, doormats, key chains -- seem quaintly insufficient.

Fans can lather up with Boca shampoo while showering behind plastic Boca curtains. They can dry themselves with Boca towels before applying Boca deodorant. They can break Boca bread and sip Boca wine. They can feed their dogs Boca pet food. They can travel to work in one of about 200 Boca taxicabs, or -- if they have about $130,000 -- they can drive a Boca Porsche Cayenne. They can equip the car with a Boca battery.

It could get even better -- or worse, depending on whether you're a fan.

The marketing department has been shopping around the idea of licensing an entire Boca Juniors gated community. Practice soccer fields used by the team would anchor the community, and developers could sell lots around the fields. Schools and churches would be added. Team marketing officials say interested investors are searching for a location within 30 minutes of La Boca, the riverside neighborhood from which the club takes its name.

Additionally, marketers recently created a spinoff license called Boca Toons, anchored by what creators describe as a Simpsons-like animated program featuring a family of Boca fans and some of the team's players.

Guillermo Otero, president of the production company behind the program, said it would be shown on Argentine television, on cable and in public places such as subway stations.

"The idea is that once per day, at least, all the habitants of Argentina would see Boca Toons," Otero said.

CONTINUED     1        >

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