Vienna. Usually, David Alaba spins on the left wing of Bayern Munich. Recently, Austria’s most famous football player has been appearing on the right wing: Since the beginning of March, the "Wiener Zeitung" has been following online banner advertising showing the player’s picture on "Breitbart". This far-right US web portal has gained unfortunate notoriety with its articles and headlines, for example stating that birth control makes women "sluts". Breitbart’s long-standing head, Stephen Bannon, even made it to President Donald Trump’s chief strategist.

In fact, there are two companies advertising with star player Alaba on Breitbart: Coca-Cola and Sky. The beverage producer is a personal sponsor of the 24-year-old footballer. Their advertising banner shows him in a casual position and wearing a grey hoodie sweatshirt, holding a bottle of "Coca-Cola Zero" in his left hand. Sky is not mentioned in the list of sponsors on the player’s website. However, the pay TV service uses Alaba’s picture to advertise their live broadcasts; the image shows a scene from a Champions League match between FC Bayern and PSV Eindhoven in October 2016. The Bavarians won the game 4:1.

For Alaba’s marketing agency and the affected companies, however, these advertisements are a fiasco. Since November 2016, almost 1600 companies (incl. subsidiaries) have blocked Breitbart for their advertising. This includes multi-billion dollar businesses such as Daimler, Easyjet or Siemens, as is revealed by a list of the "Sleeping Giants" initiative. Advertising on Breitbart nowadays leads to loss of reputation. For the first time, this also affects an internationally known top athlete and imperils his brand.

"We develop Brands"

Today, athletes stage themselves as comprehensive artworks. "We develop players into brands," Alaba’s agency Avantgarde Sponsoring promises on its website. The player’s official advertising partners include Coca-Cola, Adidas and Bank Austria, a subsidiary of Italian company UniCredit. Alaba, hashtag #da27, sells billed caps via his own online shop, where it says, "Show the world what team you are on and represent the best team of the league with a premium snapback - DA27". The left-sided defender has many fans on social media: 3.7 million users follow him on the Instagram photo-sharing platform, more than 3.6 million users have given Alaba a like on the social network Facebook, and he counts 1.18 million followers on the news service Twitter. Recently, he has also conquered the news service Snapchat. Private snapshots alternate with pictures from professional photo agencies, which shows that someone at least co-administers Alaba’s channels. In the social media, Alaba certainly has everything under control.