Vuvuzelas – sending the wrong message?

While soccer fever has taken over South Africa, I can help but wonder whether the beautiful game has become overshadowed by the awful noise.

When trying to view the matches on television, you have to concentrate so hard to hear what the commentators are saying as it is abundantly clear that they are evermore distracted by the incessant buzzing of thousands of enthusiastic vuvuzela blowing fans.

International broadcasting organisations such as the BBC and ESPN experienced sound related problems early on during the FIFA World Cup. Many consumers phoned in to report that they could not hear the commentators, only the buzzing sound emanating from the stadiums in live broadcasts. This resulted in World Cup organising chief South African Danny Jordaan considering on banning the vuvuzela’s from stadiums. Though reported by this never happened.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a fan sitting in the stadiums watching your favourite team play after flying in from your home country only to be so distracted by the ear-splitting noise that you are unable to enjoy the star player’s winning goal.

The abuse of the vuvuzela indoors at airports and inside shopping centres in South Africa has resulted in a nationwide indoor ban of the “plastic trumpet”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a home country hating cynic or opposed to the wonderful foreign exposure that South Africa is getting due to the Football World Cup being hosted in our beautiful country, all I’m pondering is whether or not the vuvuzela and its accompanying noise isn’t perhaps sending the wrong message of South Africa.

There is already an enormous amount of online backlash as to the harmful effects of vuvuzela. Many sites have cited the possible long-term effects that prolonged exposure to the noise of vuvuzela’s could have on a person’s hearing. BBC News stated in an online article that the vuvuzela blows in at 127 decibels at full volume when pressed against your ear. Other noise makers such as a drum (at 122 decibels), a chainsaw (at 100 decibels) and a referee’s whistle (at 121.8 decibels) fall much lower on a sliding scale of harmful sound levels.

Other international sporting events such as the Tri Nations Rugby and Rugby World Cup are surely going to be subjected to the vuvuzela if the sporting matches are to be held in South Africa. New Zealand however has banned the “long plastic air horn” from matches held at their rugby stadiums. In an article on David Kennedy states that this weekend’s match between the Springboks and the All Blacks at Eden Park will free from the swarm of bees sound produced by vuvuzela toting supporters.

In the midst of all this negativity, I can’t help but wonder whether international visitors are forming an unpleasant association between South Africa, its people and the vuvuzela. Has the annoying noise lead to visitors labelling all South Africans as annoying? Consumer Perception is a dangerous thing and a difficult assumption to change.

Have we in our excitement and joy over hosting the World Cup, indirectly sabotaged our positive marketing attempts (through lively and colourful adverts promoting our country) with a cheap tuneless noise.


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