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Discordant Fandom and Global Football Brands: ‘Let the People Sing’

This article has three main objectives. Our first is to turn to sport as a particularly illuminating and revealing example of consumer culture in the making. Marketplace logic suffuses consumer culture, and exploring practices of fandom as performed thus becomes particularly revealing of the tensions and contradictions which are thrown up when passions collide with finance and branding strategies. Our second objective is to mobilise this insight to further research on brand communities through better situating social practices as entangled in this heady nexus of passions, power and cultural politics. Through a netnographic analysis of forum posts from Celtic Football Club’s notorious ‘Green Brigade’ ultras-style fan-group, we focus on how such social formations forge counter-identities, which act not in harmony with the larger brand ethos but serve to legitimate and affirm a counter-philosophy. As such, our final objective is to better understand the roles of brand agitator and brand heretic as key roles within this contested social formation. Fandom as dramatic ritual and social drama brings in its wake contradictions and tensions especially when it goes toe-to-toe with the forces of economics, branding and marketing strategy. Here, a counter-brand community as we reveal mobilises marketplace logic and appears to adopt their own practices of mimicking brand strategizing for their own ends, or as they assert, ‘Let the people sing’.