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A Messi affair: Budweiser’s attempt to pay tribute to footballer goes awry

Painting Messi murals over already existing iconic street art has triggered backlash.

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MUMBAI: When beer brand Budweiser decided to commemorate Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi's 644th goal with a splash of wall murals, it was certainly an inspired idea – which sadly fell flat in the execution. The extravagant murals depicting La Pulga’s life and journey were displayed in prominent spots – Delhi’s Hauz Khaz and Chapel Road in Bandra, Mumbai. However, what the brand allegedly did not take into account was that in order to create their own wall mural, they were 'destroying' street art which has been Delhi's pride for a while now.

The American brewer seems to have painted its murals over some already existing iconic street art in both places, enraging the artist and creator community. St+art India Foundation, an organisation that works to promote street art and which had commissioned the original Delhi murals, took to social media to deride Budweiser’s campaign, calling it “blatant advertising under the name of street art”. In its post, the foundation claims that its earliest murals in Delhi go back as far as 2014 and have been replaced by Budweiser overnight.   

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by St+art India (@startindia)

Three such murals have come up in the neighbourhood as part of the Budweiser India campaign in the past one month. At least two of the new artworks were painted over existing murals created by artists Okuda San Miguel and Mariusz Waras in 2014. The back of the primary municipal corporation school building in south Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village now has murals of footballer Lionel Messi – an illegal act, St+art India pointed out, as school premises can't be used to advertise alcohol brands.

The brand is now at the receiving end of widespread social media backlash for 'messing' up Delhi's street art and concerns were raised over “advertising in the name of street art.”

In the face of this furore, Budweiser India issued a statement via Instagram stories saying, “We have always believed in the power of art and have worked with multiple artists over the years to build a strong foundation that is supportive towards the creator community. As part of curating these murals, we reached out to multiple artists including Start India [sic], and collaborated with artists that met our creative and commercial direction through these illustrations that curated over months and even restored the walls. Our aim was always to offer the insider perspective into the G.O.A.T’s iconic journey and inspire fans through creative murals that celebrated his journey. We continue to support the creator community.”  

The brand has been accused of surrogate advertising in the name of street art, as it is not uncommon for alcohol brands to roll out campaigns where their product is not mentioned because they are not allowed to advertise liquor directly. Meanwhile, in a tit-for-tat move to reclaim Delhi's walls, a group of graffiti and street artists painted over a couple of Messi murals on Sunday.

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