Freebies are great at any time. Everyone loves them.
In these times when it seems that football is just about money and fleecing the fan for what people can get off them, freebies at football these days can be a rare occurance.
One of the enjoyable things about watching the Vancouver Whitecaps this season is that you will not be leaving the game without at least one freebie having come into your hands during the course of the evening.
The programmes and team sheets are free, there is a free collectors card of former players at each match (to celebrate the Club’s 35 years of existance), there’s newspaper pullout features dedicated to the Caps and at many games over the course of the season you can pick up a copy of Free Kick magazine – it’s not the best football magazine on the market, but it is a homegrown one and that alone is to be applauded in what is not a football dominated media market, and hey, it’s free!
These are all great and useful freebies and you almost take them for granted. What I love is the collection of weird and wonderful free items that have been getting given away as you leave the stadium this year. It’s got to the stage that, sad as it may be, you look forward to see what piece of tat you’re going to get given after the final whistle!
Some have been useful, if a little strange. Friday’s game saw $2 off vouchers for Iams pet food. Excellent. There’s also been free mints given away. Again, useful and in this case, rather tasty too.
Then you get to the really strange. Those that fall into the wtf category.
At both of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship matches at Swangard this year, punters leaving the game have been given a pill box emblazoned with the sponsors name.
Now it should be explained here that, based on 2008 sales, Nutrilite are the world’s leading brand of vitamin, mineral and dietary supplements. So a pill box with their name on it is not exactly a strange marketing tool in itself.
What I find unexpectedly strange is to be given a six slotted, empty pill box when leaving a football match. They’re not two things that you immediately think go hand in hand.
But wait. Maybe there is a clever marketing idea here that’s been missed and the giving of such a freebie is, in fact, a stroke of genius.
We all know how passionate football fans are. How much a victory or defeat can mean to them. A six slotted pill box could in fact help the fan and drugs companies to cover all bases and never leave the house unprepared.
You can carry vitamins to help you get through a full 90 minutes of noisy and animated support, betablockers for the heart palpitations created over the course of the game depending on whether your team is laying siege on goal or defending for their lives, and lets not forget a mix of various uppers and downers depending on the final result.
As strange as a pillbox may be, this can only rank second in my personal confusion stakes of freebies I’ve received at the football.
Pride and place in the number one spot goes to the freebie handed out at East Fife’s midweek away match at Alloa on the night of December 2nd 2003.
I’d brought along a workmate and good friend of mine, John Dickinson, who was up from England on business for a few days. He was an ardent Barnsley fan and was at a loose end, so going to his first East Fife game was an ideal way to spend some time as far as he was concerned.
The night has gone down in his own personal football folklore and he still talks about it to this day for a few reasons.
East Fife had been playing well, challenging at the top of the table, but Dicko witnessed a shocking game, a 2-0 Fife defeat and the Fife hardly won any games for the rest of the season, quickly slipped down the table and were promptly relegated. He feels he jinxed us.
This alone is not his story to tell. His favourite part of the evening was the freebie that was given out when you bought a copy of the matchday programme – a bottle of shampoo – or rather my look after I received it.
Dicko and I still well remember the look of confusion on my face, as I, a folically challenged individual, stood in disbelief and utter bewilderment as I looked at the programme in my left hand and the bottle of shampoo in the other.
So many words were trying to make it through my head, but nothing could come out of my hung open mouth, as all I could keep thinking at that moment, the resultant ninety minutes, the drive home and even now, was why?
To this very day, I still have no idea!
Freebies at football – you gotta love them!