We Pulled The Football Hoax of The Decade, But What Does It Mean Today?

It’s September 2015. The football season is in full swing. But not everyone is in a jubilant mood. Arsenal fans are incensed at Arsene Wenger’s decision not to sign an outfield player; they are the only team in Europe’s top five leagues not to do so.

As is often the case with Arsenal, it looks as if the manager’s frugality could cost the North London club another Premier League title. But then hope arrives in the form of a £34m teenager from France. There’s just one problem… he doesn’t exist.

Just who is Rex Secco?

Mention the name Rex Secco to anyone at Social Chain and they’ll tell you it was a stunt for the ages. If you’ve heard the tale, you’ll know that Rex Secco is an anagram of Soccerex – the football business conference, which we were due to speak at the day after our prank.

If you’ve never heard the name Rex Secco, let us regale you with the story of our transfer hoax. We had just been invited to our first major sports conference. Back then, we were known as the agency who could make anything go viral in under 20, 15 and later 10 minutes.


Rex Secco > Soccerex: how we fooled the world (but mainly Arsenal fans)

We knew it would take something special to impress the Soccerex crowd, so we invented Rex Secco before spreading the rumour through our engaged network of Twitter pages, which back then enjoyed a reach of around 200 million (now 386+ million).

It didn’t take long for Rex Secco to gain international fame. One fan even admitted to seeing him play – even though we had made him up. Nevertheless, Rex Secco was the 16-year-old French (or maybe Brazilian) wonderkid on everyone’s mind.

The stunt successfully gained 151 million impressions and broke headlines across the world, including The Sun, The Metro and The Mirror. We decided to call time on the hoax a day later – admittedly, some had already worked out the joke.

Rex Secco two years on…

If things had gone as planned and Rex Secco had become a club legend at Arsenal, we imagine he would now have well over a million followers on Instagram and a personal brand that would make Mesut Özil wince.

Fast-forward two years and there are few professional clubs and players without a presence on social media. And while celebrity culture has long been aligned with footballers (David Beckham), it’s not just the select few galacticos now.

Nowadays, a strong focus on personal branding and social media has enabled many footballers to become celebrities in their own right.

Power to the fans: social media is changing football

But it’s not just the players who are benefiting from life in the digital age, the advent of social media has also brought fans closer to the game – which is as good an argument as any for football to align itself with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

As SPORF’s Marcello Fabiano explains: “Fans have never been closer to the game. Most players and clubs are active on social, which makes the experience for all fans more personal, engaging and entertaining. They feel like they’re a part of the action.”

Likewise, social media has opened up numerous sponsorship opportunities for brands, especially with the uplift in games and tournaments that are now live streamed or hosted on the web. So, why has social media become so popular?

The bottom line is that traditional media is dying out. While TV will still have a place in sport, it is becoming more and more apparent that millennials and Gen Z crave a more immersive and enhanced experience – social media offers this, but it’s very hard to replicate on TV.

TV rights and VR: a shift in power?

With that in mind, it’s interesting to see the power shifting away from rights holders like major broadcasters back to brands and football clubs (rights owners). Many have begun segmenting their offering to include social media – this will be especially vital when VR comes to pass.

It’s hard to believe that the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger once lambasted the advent of social media, especially with the revenue it has brought in. Do you think the former Utd manager would be against today’s transfer reveals or the recent Adidas #HereToCreate ad campaign?

What about the #POGBA emoji? Would it even matter when you consider it generated 80,000 tweets within two hours?

Rex Secco would have been 18 this year, and while we haven’t yet arranged a plaque, we at least hope he’ll be treated to his own emoji.

But as Social Chain’s sports accounts director Richard Johnson said back in January, perhaps an emoji is a dab too far. Liked this? Subscribe to the newsletter below for more great insights!

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