Anti-mimesis in the 21st Century (what we haven’t learned from football, recruitment and The Great Gatsby)

I read with interest today the news of a business partnership between a leading global recruitment firm and one of the top clubs in the English Premier League. Knowing a thing or two about recruitment firms, and having a keen interest in football I pondered for a while on how such a deal may have come about, and what each hopes to gain from the relationship.

The football club in question is well known for having more money than sense, employing a group of talented yet very egotistical staff in the hope that this alone will get results, and generally throwing toys out of the pram when things don’t go their way.

The recruitment firm is also well-known in the market for offering less-than-ideal service to customers, and using buddying tactics/throwing money at a situation in an attempt to assert some influence over an outcome in their favour.

I inwardly smiled and didn’t know who to feel more sorry for. But then I remembered that this is an adult world, and I’m sure both went into the deal knowing what to expect from the other. Much like, in fact, two central characters within one of the world’s finest novels – the recently re-popularised The Great Gatsby.

Stay with me here. The parallels are uncanny. Tom Buchanan is money. And represents money, excess and rubbing everyone else’s nose in it. Flaunting a mistress in front of anyone he meets, he lives in fear that his people will soon have their superiority usurped. So he resorts to his influence and bullying to remove their threat.

And then there is Daisy. A whimsical fly-by-night, who settles with Tom because he has money and status. She considered following a higher calling of love but resorts to the simple maintained life, safe in her wealth and comfort, not offering anything new to the world, shrugging off responsibility and true affection.

So maybe it is right that they belong together – money with money, irresponsibility with money, trophy wives with money, blame with money, the occasional victory with a stab in the back.

One could argue that from a brand perspective the each is reinforcing their current brand status with this partnership, albeit one of a relatively low public perception. But is this really a wise idea? How could Daisy have made more of her situation? We don’t really expect more from Tom, but Daisy had potential. She could have had Gatsby: an up-and-comer, striving to better himself for the love of his life. An opportunity for the public to love and adore her for having the strength to follow her heart. Now we know Gatsby had his faults and that his relationship with Daisy ended (well, we know how it ended), but surely there’s a lesson there somewhere.

If I were looking to forge a long-lasting business relationship at this level, to have the chance to show a middle finger to my competitors and still look great from a PR perspective, I’d pick an underdog. A try-hard. Someone who plays nice, and who, with a bit of a boost from myself could really achieve something great. Then we would both benefit. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

But who am I to comment? Let’s just say I won’t be surprised if a relationship such as this (based on money and influence, without enough trust and respect for the other) ends in the valley of ashes…

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