This blog post is written by my colleague Dr Eddy Hogg, in the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent
Last Sunday the World Cup Final was won by Germany in Rio de Janeiro, watched by an estimated one billion viewers across the globe. One of Germany’s victorious side, Arsenal’s Mesut Özil, announced on his Facebook page the day after the final that he would use his winner’s bonus to pay for the surgery of twenty-three Brazilian children as part of the BigShoe charity campaign, one for each member of Germany’s squad. Özil is not the only world cup star to donate his winnings to charity: the Algerian squad have donated their entire prize fund to humanitarian aid in Gaza, striker Islam Slimani commenting that “they need it more than us”, while Greece’s national team have asked for their bonuses to be used to build a new national football centre. Even England’s much-maligned squad donate all of their match bonuses to a range of charities selected by the team.
Much of this philanthropic activity goes unnoticed and unheralded, but Özil’s donation seems to have struck a chord. Maybe because it is part of a wider narrative of a successful team who have respected their hosts – as well as Özil’s gift, the brand new training and hotel facility that the Germans built for themselves in Brazil will now become a community resource for the local people. Maybe though it has struck a chord because the morning after the biggest match of his career, a footballer is thinking about others rather than his own glory and has chosen to make a personal donation to a universally appreciated cause: poorly children.
Beyond the impact on his own image – and there is no denying that Özil’s reputation will benefit from his generosity – what is the likely impact of this very public donation? Our research shows that donors often use famous and respected individuals as guides for their own philanthropy – role models who guide their giving. Özil – a global superstar and now a World Cup winner – holds the respect and adoration of football fans across the globe. Faced with a decision of whether to donate to charity, and what causes to donate to, our research suggests that people who admire footballers may well look to Özil and follow his lead in donating to worthy causes.