Rio 2016

Alasdair Townsend & Patrick O'Neill from Brazilian PR agency, Sherlock Communications

A view from the games – PR Week interview

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PR Week recently ran this interview on us, asking our perspective on the Olympics from on the ground in Rio de Janeiro. You can read the original article here.

Sherlock’s adopted Brazilians soak up the atmosphere

Alasdair Townsend and Patrick O’Neill, the British pair running Anglo-Brazilian agency Sherlock Communications, have been enjoying swimming and fencing, and trying to ignore the doom-mongering.

Why have you gone to Rio?

Alasdair Townsend (pictured below at fencing competition): We actually have permanent bases in Rio and São Paulo so we have not had to come far. As an agency we specialise in helping international brands break into Brazil, bridging the cultural and commercial gap, and have a number of clients looking to capitalise on the Olympic opportunity.

Alasdair Townsend from Brazilian PR agency Sherlock Communications

Alasdair Townsend from Brazilian PR agency, Sherlock Communications


Given the build up to the Games, were you apprehensive about attending?

Patrick O’Neill: Absolutely not. We know Brazil and Rio de Janeiro and we knew the doom-mongering was exaggerated. There are lots of brands and companies smart enough to see through the negativity and realise it’s still extremely important to have a presence in the world’s sixth largest market.

Does it feel like the Brazilian authorities’ and Games organisers’ PR operation is running smoothly?

AT: After a largely ineffectual build-up, the opening ceremony was a game changer and the tone of coverage since has been largely positive. The main PR challenge now comes from the empty seats at some events, but that has less to do with the Brazilian authorities and more with the strict rules imposed by the IOC.

Which sponsor or other brands are shining through for you?

PO: While we like Samsung’s installations, none of the major sponsors have captured the cultural nuances and engaged audiences in the same way as Google. The stations are full of posters for Google Translate, translating Carioca colloquialisms into English.

What do you think will be your abiding memory of the trip?

PO: Our abiding memories will be being there to witness the incredible achievements of Michael Phelps [Patrick pictured below at pool], and particularly Rafaela Silva, along with the sheer feel-good factor evident among everyone we know.

Patrick O'Neill from Brazilian PR agency Sherlock Communications

Patrick O’Neill from Brazilian PR agency, Sherlock Communications

Was a staged robbery really part of the Olympic opening ceremony?

By | Brazilian Recession, International communications, Rio 2016 | No Comments

While the 2014 World Cup featured many tasteless examples of opulence and sponsors’ champagne dos, the Olympics organisers seem to have learned some imporant lessons from FIFA. Executive producer Marco Balich has recently confirmed the Rio 2016 opening ceremony will break with the recent tradition of large-scale and expensive shows, featuring a low-emissions cauldron and an “analogue” experience.  With the country in recession and unemployment levels at 11%, it would simply be inappropriate for Brazil to spend the same amount as London and Sochi on its opening ceremony.

This sensitivity and humility should be seen as a positive. But the way it being covered is too often far from positive. And make no mistake, there are positive stories.

The Daily Mail recently ran an outraged and incredulous story reporting that the ceremony would will include model Giselle Bundchen being mugged. As readers of this blog will know, the foreign media are no strangers to negative sensationalism when it comes to Brazil and this story is but one more example.

Today it’s being widely reported that this staged robbery had been canned from the ceremony, but is that the full story?

Allegedly, the scene was not just of an attempted robbery but of a young black male being chased by police. The idea was clearly to challenge traditional stereotypes but, in the face of media backlash, it was deemed this was a step too far.

The reported comments of the organising committee have not necessarily helped matters, suggesting the scene was never actually part of the plan and that some elements in the rehearsal ‘were inserted just to confuse the public’.

But, in the face of largely toxic media cynicism, this was always going to be a losing battle.

Brazil is a hugely diverse country and it’s clear the ceremony is looking to celebrate that diversity in a highly positive manner. As well as some of the more internationally known Bossa Nova artists like Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso, the show is also going to feature ‘funkeiros’ (funk carioca, Brazil’s version of hip hop) and Lea T, the first transsexual artist to feature in an Olympic opening ceremony.

But you would have to look far and wide to find much coverage of the fact…

At some point, the negative perception of the games has become the accepted “reality” – in English at any rate.

Here on the ground, there is actually a growing sense of excitement. The new tram line has opened, the finishing touches are being put to the main streets, with the construction hoardings (present for the last four years) coming down to reveal impressive new surrounds, the cooler weather is allaying fears of the Zika virus and the photos that have leaked out of the opening ceremony’s dress rehearsal are generating widespread buzz on social media.

It is frankly a tragedy that the opportunity to convey that excitement has been missed.

Some sneak previews of the ceremony leaked from the dress rehearsal:


Brazil’s missed Olympic PR opportunity – a failure to respond

By | International communications, Market Insight, PR Strategy, Rio 2016 | No Comments

The Olympic Games should be serving as an international showcase for both the city and country that is hosting them. But unless you’ve been living somewhere devoid of internet access and / or newsagents, you’ll notice that’s not exactly the picture painted in the English-language media.

Of course, Rio 2016 is  happening at a troubled time: a complicated, at times toxic, political backdrop; an impending presidential impeachment; a nationwide corruption probe; concerns over security; an economic recession; and, not-least, the zika virus. There was never going to be blanket positive coverage – and I personally can’t remember an Olympics where there weren’t question marks over readiness and overspending.

But, from a communications perspective, could more have been done to paint a picture of the positives and the opportunities, what could have been done to offer a more balanced perspective?

For those of us living in the country, there is a feeling that Brazil has sleepwalked its way into the role of whipping boy for the international press.

Of course, bad news will be privileged over good by any editor worth their salt, but there is a prevailing sense that this editorial trend has been largely unchallenged by Brazilian politicians and institutions.

And it is clear that in some cases, some of the stories written in the international press have been, at best, rapidly produced, and at worst poorly researched or based on questionable syndications.

It has been crying out for a proactive PR response campaign, but it has not happened. Why?

Brazil has always been introspective, but given its current problems, and the fact that most of the would-be spokespeople for the Olympics are politicians, primarily concerned with communicating to their own electorate, there has been a vacuum of replies and alternative points of view offered to the international media.

Put simply, the Government’s communications teams were more concerned with minimising the domestic scandal than the country’s global image.

What simple stories and points of view could have been offered to counterbalance the negativity? A few examples…

On the issue of security – the Rio police are being reinforced by offers from neighbouring states and a 2100 from the armed forces.

On the issue of traffic – the cities normal routes are being modified so that delegations and organizers have special passage through the city streets with exclusive lanes.

On the issue of the zika virus – the government is mobilising 220,000 soldiers of the armed forces to provide aid in a campaign involving 356 Brazilian cities.

On the recession – with rising unemployment rates, the Rio de Janeiro tourism sector is creating an additional 4080 temporary jobs during the period of the Games.

On the mood – point to the example of the World Cup. Brazil 2014, itself subject to numerous criticisms, was notable for its feel-good factor (albeit discounting the semi-final). As soon as the tournament started, the country was orderly, hospitable and unified in support. Its self-esteem was clearly raised. With the broken records and outstanding performances doubtless to follow from both Brazilian and international Olympic athletes, who is to say we won’t see a repeat performance?

The fact remains though, with no-one to makes these arguments and mount a credible, proactive PR defence to bad news stories, international journalists will inevitably maintain a negative bias in their coverage and what positive stories exist will be lost in the doom mongering.


In the Olympic spotlight – Mastercard becomes supporter of Christ the Redeemer

By | Brand Strategy, Rio 2016, Sports marketing | No Comments

Ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, brands have started to step up Rio-centric, wider Brazilian and international activities in the run up to the games. In the countdown to August 5th, we will be offering a regular commentary on of the main movers and shakers from the sponsor and non-sponsor categories.

In the spotlight this week: Mastercard (non-Sponsor)

Just four months before the games and with an agreement lasting until 2018, non-Olympic sponsor Mastercard have announced a new deal with the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro to become an official supporter of the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue.

The initiative forms part of the brand’s international “Priceless Cities” programme and includes commitments to the ongoing maintenance of the statue as well as local community outreach programmes

An official brand spokesperson was keen to point out that the agreement was actually negotiated last year but only announced now, and that Mastercard simply wanted another Rio landmark for their programme, independent of the Olympics.

Our verdict: In spite of the fact they were also quick to say that the agreement allowed the brand to leverage the iconic Rio statue without having to talk about the Olympics (a possible reference to the organising committee’s strict restrictions for non-sponsor brands, compared to a Visa, for example) and that Mastercard don’t do “guerrilla”, given the parallel restrictions on photo-calls at the statue and the fact its image is likely to plastered all over the international media in the coming months, this seems a well-timed land grab by a non-sponsor in the build up to the event.

Sherlock partners with international sports agency, RedTorch

By | Brand Strategy, RedTorch, Rio 2016, Sports marketing | No Comments

As you may have read in the press, we’re very happy to announce that international sports marketing agency RedTorch has partnered with Sherlock to assist sports organisations in the delivery of global and local communications strategies relating to the 2016 Games in Brazil.

RedTorch is highly experienced in delivering campaigns that engage and influence niche sports audiences worldwide and will combine its knowledge of international sport with Sherlock’s insight into the Brazilian market and our strong local connections.

“Our partnership with Sherlock allows us to offer our clients and other brands the opportunity to create and activate communications campaigns in Brazil (and worldwide) in the lead up to, during, and after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” says Jonny Murch, Managing Director of RedTorch.

“We’re confident that with our understanding of and connections across international sport, combined with Sherlock’s knowledge of the local Brazilian market, we can provide creative and effective communications support.”

To learn how to activate your brand for the Games in 2016, please contact Jonny Murch or Alasdair Townsend.

Postcard from Brazil – PR Week

By | Brazilian Business, Brazilian Politics, Brazilian Recession, Market Insight, PR Strategy, PR Week, Rio 2016 | No Comments

PR Week recently published this article by me about how the Brazilian marketing comms market is facing up to the country’s well documented political and economic challenges ahead of the Olympics. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it in full below.

Brazil is going through a turbulent political and economic period but it is still exceptionally strong creatively, says Alasdair Townsend, managing partner of Sherlock Communications.

Chat with the average Brazilian and you could be forgiven for thinking the country was entering a state of terminal decline amid recession, corruption scandals and, to some extent the root of all of these, political uncertainty.

Like other Latin Americans, Brazilians are emotional thinkers and positives and negatives tend to become exaggerated. Talk with older heads and you get a more measured perspective, with most expecting the political picture to clarify after next year’s municipal elections and a turnaround within two years.

The fundamental factors that make Brazil an attractive long-term investment have not changed and, as an agency, we are continuing to see demand from the consumer goods, technology, education and healthcare sectors in particular – to say nothing of the planning already starting ahead of next year’s Olympics.

For comms professionals, there’s no doubt that these are challenging times, but it’s wrong to judge on emotion instead of facts.

Like all recessions, this one is bringing as many opportunities as challenges. It also has the potential to bring a maturation in business practices which could have a profound impact on the communications landscape.

Brazilian agencies have always been exceptionally strong creatively, as a glance at any Cannes Lions will show, yet this creativity could be euphemistically described as more “unfettered” than in other markets. Brazilian business practices and timelines mean that strategic planning and measurement don’t receive the same focus they would in London or New York, for example. Something that frequently poses a challenge to international brands operating in the market.

Part of the problem is that internal corporate hierarchies mean that there is resistance to sharing between departments and unclear reporting lines or dialogue with senior management. A problem often further compounded in multinationals, with budgets and communications frameworks determined outside Brazil.

“Communications” budgets also often fall under the purview of professionals from other disciplines, such as HR or even GR, and an agency can find itself with a roster of clients that each have a different job title. In this context, outmoded metrics (the AVE is still alive and well in Brazil) continue to be produced.

Procurement departments and executives are placing an increasing emphasis on efficiencies but, at the same time, squeezing budgets, access and hours required to effectively plan and evaluate success. A tipping point is being reached.

Above a certain age, businesses are typically slow-moving and hierarchical, but if younger than 15 years old, they are often extremely innovative and agile (they need to be to survive the many bureaucratic obstacles Brazil puts in their way). They succeed only by having a clearly defined vision and streamlined management structure. This truth is starting to be recognised more widely, and it is the agencies that can harness more ‘creative’ and energetic approaches to planning and management that will achieve real cut-through.

To give a real life example, while working on a digital brief with one of Brazil’s largest retailers, it was obvious that updating the wider business was going to be at least as important to success as any external impacts. We created an internal brand for the project, then ran internal content marketing campaigns (newsletters, infographics, videos and roadshows) showing what we were doing, why it was important and how the business at large and employees were benefitting. A far cry from a typical monthly report – but an approach that was demonstrably effective in its Brazilian context.

More than ever, the pressure is on to show that communications is an investment not a cost. Over the next two years, there is a feel that the traditional Brazilian strength, creativity, could be becoming focused to meet that challenge, with agencies producing bold and robust new approaches to surmount Brazil’s bureaucracy.


Six things you need to know ahead of the 2016 Games

By | Market Insight, PR Strategy, Rio 2016 | No Comments

For any international brand, launching or operating in Brazil can be a daunting experience and requires careful planning and commitment.

Even at the highest levels of business, the ability to communicate in Portuguese is normally required and, while the country may seem united in language, in reality it is fragmented into many widely varying consumer groups.

In advance of the games, this six-point guide is designed to offer a cultural overview of the country’s marketing, sports and digital landscape ,as well as the challenges that face an international brand entering the market.


Brazilian cynicism to big business and sport has heightened in the last year, with corruption scandals affecting government, industry and even, with investigations into FIFA, the memory of the World Cup (which still remains under something of a cloud, with many promised infrastructure projects still incomplete let alone the infamous semi-final result against Germany).

A poll in March last year showed that as many as 68.9 percent of Brazilians believe the President, Dilma Rouseff, was responsible for a massive kickback scheme in the recently exposed Petrobras scandal.

In the context of preparation for the games in Rio, there is a particular degree of distrust and distaste for spin. To make room for sporting developments, there have been many forced evictions in poorer districts while the local government has been repeatedly criticized for erecting eight miles of concrete ‘eco-barriers’ (allegedly to protect rainforest around communities), more cynically seen as walls for containing and hiding the city’s slums from its foreign visitors.

In this context, as always with any international brand in Brazil, there is always a considerable risk of being viewed as in some way exploitative or arrogant, not benefiting the host country. However, any brand campaigns or initiatives which attempt to give something back, to be successful and taken seriously, must be based on a clear understanding of the more complicated underlying tensions and suspicions that exist


Brazil is still a divided society, both culturally and economically. Among more disadvantaged communities in particular, sport is seen as a vehicle to social mobility with many successful/hero footballers, martial artists and basketball players coming from poorer comunidades (the preferred, politically correct term instead of favela).

Like the successful companies that sponsor these players, the most respected and loved are those that demonstrably embrace their roots rather than seek to distance themselves from them.


Although Rio, with its beaches and famous landmarks, is seen as an almost archetypal representation of Brazil by foreigners, in reality, the city has a more complicated image to Brazilians.

Unlike the World Cup, which held games across the country, the games are being held exclusively in or around the city of Rio de Janeiro. Although Rio is Brazil’s second largest city, it represents just three per cent of the total population. Most Brazilians (particularly those outside the middle or upper classes) have never been there. Brands which recognize this fact and can, in some way, help bring a meaningful experience of the games to consumers outside the city will achieve considerable cut-through.

Although Rio, with its beaches and famous landmarks, is seen as an almost archetypal representation of Brazil by foreigners, in reality, the city has a more complicated image to Brazilians. The carioca (Rio) way of life and people have a reputation of being laid back, but this certainly not always a positive association. Tensions between Rio and the rest of the country (in particular São Paulo) often exist not far beneath the surface.

Content and campaigns based on traditional Rio clichés of beaches and samba have little resonance for Brazilians but, for brands that want to celebrate and offer a genuine experience of the games in Rio, a sensitivity to these differing reputations will be key.


As will come as a surprise to few, football predominates Brazilian sporting culture. It is by far the most popular sport in the country, followed by volleyball, martial arts and basketball. Most other sports and sports stars are relatively unknown. There is, however, an enduring national pride in sporting achievement and Brazilians do and will always want to celebrate their athletes – as soon as they know who they are.

Like the teams of most other countries, the typical consumer will know only the very best athletes from the most popular events. Brands which can tap into this national Brazilian pride and help introduce and connect new athletes and niche sports to individual communities will be immediately differentiated from more simplistic and generic brand messages.

The most popular sports in Brazil (in order of popularity) are:


  • Football
  • Volleyball (including Beachvolley)
  • Basketball


  • Swimming
  • Judo
  • Athletics
  • Tennis
  • Sailing
  • Rowing
  • Gymnastics


Brazil is a culturally, educationally and economically diverse country. There is no one medium, message or publication which can reach all audiences. However, due to the increasing proliferation of smartphones and consumer credit, as well Brazil’s hyper-social culture, Brazilians use and consumption of social media dwarfs European or North American user-bases.

97.8 million Brazilians use social networks (the most popular being Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram) and as a national trait, Brazilians are simply more willing to share – Brazil has the second highest Facebook engagement rates of any country in the world.

For brands trying to engage disparate audiences, this presents a significant opportunity (social media in Brazil should be a part of any brand’s global communications strategy around the games in 2016) – it can also represent risk.

Brazilian social media users tend to have a particularly sardonic sense of humour – friends are just as likely to share disparaging memes of politicians and gaffes from brands as gossip. Any social media campaigns or content need be carefully planned to ensure that there are no unintended ironies lost in translation. Sharing is often not the problem, standing out and getting the message right frequently is.


Gamification is also extremely advanced in Brazil. The country ranks as number one in the Western world for Social Network gaming, with 36% of the population playing a social game at least once a week. The most advanced brands already recognise this and construct clear narratives around these experiences. For international brands, this should be seen as an opportunity to create experiences which can be both localized and subsequently internationalised for audiences beyond Brazil’s borders.

An international social media campaign that is kick-started in Brazil will have a clear credibility and engagement advantage against those that do not.


SHERLOCK & SPEED: Your inside track to Rio

By | PR Strategy, Rio 2016, Speed Communications | No Comments

In just under a year’s time the greatest athletes in the world will be gathering in Brazil for the 2016 Games. Likewise, many of the world’s key brands will also be competing – for relevance, return and cut-through.

For those unfamiliar with the territory, this offers a unique set of challenges that require detailed knowledge of the local market.

To help meet those challenges, we’re proud to announce a partnership between two award winning agencies, Speed Communications, a PR and Communications agency with its Head Office in London and Sherlock Communications, an Anglo-Brazilian Communications agency, operating in Rio and São Paulo.

Together, Sherlock and Speed are offering a unique set of bespoke services to ensure you maximise your investment around the Games.

How we can help:

  • Doing business in Brazil – what to expect, the dos and don’ts and how to avoid last minute headaches
  • Brand and campaign planning – how to create a successful and relevant campaign in Brazil but still maintain a broader international appeal, adapting brand platforms to ensure that communications are harmonious with Brazilian context and values
  • Fixing and facilitating – ensuring that you work with reputable and reliable ground partners that provide genuine value for money. Unfortunately, as soon as they realise a company is foreign, many Brazilian companies will include a dollar or sterling mark-up
  • Press and media relations both in Brazil and internationally
  • Brand or sponsorship activation (from small to large scale) – events, installations, stunts, photo-calls
  • Creative, digital build and social media campaigns
  • Content generation including production of locally sensitive, foreign language content
  • Evaluation and monitoring of results

We’d love to tell you more about how you can get the best from your 2016 campaign

Kate Bosomworth at Speed Communications (

Alasdair Townsend at Sherlock Communications – (

Why Brazil-bound brands should be wary of cultural mistakes

By | 2014 World Cup, Brand Strategy, Cultural Faux Pas, Market Entry, PR Strategy, Rio 2016 | No Comments

Econsultancy recently published this article by me about the cultural pitfalls foreign brands face when entering the Brazilian market.They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it in full below.

It’s been well over a decade since the acronym BRICS was introduced into the marketing lexicon.

While steps from foreign brands entering these markets have been largely tentative to date, the World Cup means the eyes and curiosity of the marketing world are now firmly rising to the B of the BRICS, Brazil.

Brazilian culture and consumer spending power (not to mention football) can be beguiling, but brands trying to capitalise on the event need to be wary of succumbing to the dreaded FOMO: fear of missing out.

The Brazilian opportunity

In spite of its infamous bureaucracy, with a rapidly emerging middle-class, extended lines of consumer credit, and one of the most digitally savvy markets in the world, few would deny the Brazilian opportunity.

A friend here recently summed it up well, comparing São Paulo to what he imagined New York must have been like at the turn of the last century: a little intimating but brimming with excitement, opportunity and entrepreneurial energy.

The country features the world’s fourth largest mobile market, the second and fifth largest Facebook and Twitter userships respectively, and a social media economy expected to be worth £238m by the end of the year.

Small wonder then that local agencies and brands consistently produce outstanding creative work, as a glance at the winners of any recent international marketing awards will attest.

To date though, steps into Brazil by foreign brands have, by and large, been measured. And rightly so.

Launching in Brazil requires a serious long-term commitment, not to mention an excellent accounting and legal team. Strong local relationships are fundamental; collaborating with the right partners, that can lend credence to a proposition and help navigate the many potential pitfalls, is crucial to a brand’s long-term success.

It’s a country as rich with cultural intricacies and nuances as it is with opportunities. You only have to look at a brand like Johnnie Walker to see this in practice. Its positioning is clearly tailored to different regions, in one place tapping into pride in family and local heritage, in another presenting itself as a symbol of individual success

But, unsurprisingly, it’s the football that’s threatening to upset the calm and tempt marketers to up the tempo. Though in truth, the London Olympics are partly to blame too.

Ever since everything suddenly went right in London, we’ve all realised the power the feel-good factor a global sporting event can produce in a digitally mature age. The bar has been raised and brands are determined not to be left behind.

Regardless of construction deadlines, cynical press reports and local protests, the truth is success in London – particularly from a global brand perspective – has only heightened anticipation for both the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil.

With marketers anxious not to miss out on a potential green-and-yellow jackpot, there’s a real chance we could see a few foreign brands trying to run before they can walk. History is littered with cautionary tales of marketers who’ve tried to cross cultural divides only to end up with egg on their faces.

There was the time Pepsi opted for a literal translation in China, offering to raise consumers’ ancestors from the dead. Kellogg’s once introduced ‘Burned Farmer’ cereal in Sweden, while Coca-Cola have themselves built a rich history of inadvertently offending, or just plain baffling their audience.

One ambitious sky-writing stunt in Cuba was sabotaged by a rogue gust of wind, leaving the ominous message of ‘Fear Coca-Cola’.

With two sporting events of such a global nature imminent, the temptation can be to chase the success, glitz and excitement seen on TV across borders through seemingly “quicker win” digital channels. But such events don’t work in a vacuum.

Real success in Brazil requires a considered, well-thought out approach. Brands that have tried to be successful with lots of hype but without an adequate product or distribution, or a clearly defined reason for being here, have never worked well in Brazil.

It is essential companies don’t assume that demand for western brands will be enough in itself – a local flavour is always required.

Much like its national team, Brazil is a very exciting prospect, but equally, it can quickly make a fool out of those without their eye on the ball!

Lost in Translation: brands tripping over the Brazilian cultural divide 

  1. KIA 

Automotive makers are notorious for their passion for exportation of their vehicles across the globe, with little consideration for the gaudy monikers they’d bestowed upon them.

Mitsubishi launched ‘the masturbator’ in Spain, Toyota offered Puerto Ricans the chance to drive an ugly old woman, while nobody at General Motors managed to clock that ‘Nova’ (or No Va) translated to ‘It doesn’t go’.

Kia was the unlucky brand to come a cropper with Brazilian/Portuguese slang. Although a popular model in other countries, the Besta van performed poorly in Brazil. While‘besta’ can mean ‘beast’, it also doubles as a rather derogatory term for an idiot.

  1. Revlon 

Revlon attempted to launch a perfume in scented with Camellia flowers, overlooking that the fact that in Brazil, Camellia flowers are synonymous with funeral services.

The company was chastised for its insensitivity and the product was recalled.

  1. Richard Nixon 

The language barrier is one obstacle, but the idea that actions speak louder than words is universal and perhaps an even more highly dangerous trap for those heading to Brazil as Richard Nixon did in the 50s.

What was intended as a good-will trip quickly turned sour when then-Vice President Nixon greeted the Brazilian populace with what we’d recognise as two ‘a-ok’ signs.

Unbeknownst to Nixon, for Brazilians, the round ‘ok’ sign is roughly the same as giving someone the middle finger.

  1. Chana 

In 2011, Chinese car manufacturer Chana has big international expansion plans, but was forced to alter its trading name to Changan upon entering the Brazilian market.

While spelt differently, ‘Chana’ was phonetically identical to a slang term for female genitalia. Not the ideal opening gambit for a new group of consumers.

  1. Ford

Perhaps the most famous story of them all came courtesy of Ford in the early 1970s.

The Ford Pinto is a relatively unremarkable name for a car at face value, and sold well in Europe. But, in launching the imported model into Brazil, that they discovered ‘Pinto’ is Brazilian Portuguese slang for male genitalia.

Unsurprisingly, the model was subsequently renamed Corcel, which (continuing a certain theme), means horse or steed!

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