“The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.” This quotation is widely attributed to George Bernard Shaw, although it’s not found in his published works.

Trust me. I’ve looked high and low for more than 40 years.


Back in 1969, when I was an American student at the University of Edinburgh, I asked a lovely Scottish lass for a date. And she asked, “Are you fond of dried figs?”

I told her that I wanted to take her to the movies. And she said, “Oh, you mean the cinema.”

I told her that I’d meet her on the sidewalk in front of her apartment at 7 p.m. And she said, “Oh, you mean the pavement in front of my flat at 19:00.”

I told her that we’d see Z (which I pronounced Zee). And she said, “Oh, you mean Z (which she pronounced Zed).”

Fortunately, the 1969 French language political thriller had English subtitles, because it is a satirical view of Greek politics. And I was already having enough problems with the English language.

I mention all this because we’re getting ready to kick off the NFL football season in the United States. Meanwhile, the Barclays Premier League’s football season started over the weekend in Great Britain. And, just to be perfectly clear, what they call “football” over there, we call “soccer” over here.

Well, at least it was perfectly clear, until NBC Sports obtained the rights to show the Barclays Premier League in the United States for the next three seasons … and started showing “football” from over there over here.

Now, the US broadcaster is trying to help its American audience learn English as a second language. It is also attempting to teach its viewers the rules to football in a social video entitled, “An American Coach in London: NBC Sports Premier League Film featuring Jason Sudeikis.”

Because I’ve spent time in Great Britain, “An American Coach in London” makes perfect sense to me. And apparently it makes perfect sense to lots of other people on both sides of the pond because this social video has more than 4.2 million views and over 337,000 shares, according to Unruly’s Viral Video Chart.

But there’s another social video that I needed to ask my friends at Unruly, who work in London, to explain to me. I needed help because it’s difficult to translate into English what Peyton and Eli Manning are saying in Direct TV’s “Football on your Phone – Manning Brothers Music Video.”

Of course, like most other fans of the New England Patriots, I’ve never understood the Manning Brothers. Nevertheless, “Football on your Phone” has almost 7 million views and close to 472,000 shares, according to Unruly’s viral Video Chart. So, I guess that a lot of other people understand what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here.

In fact, Sarah Small of Dotted Line Communications, who handles PR for Unruly out of New York, was able to nimbly explain that the music video was launched on August 6, 2013, in the U.S. (which was 6 August, 2013, in the U.K.). She also informed me that the ratio of 7 million views to 472,000 shares means “one in 15 people who have seen it have shared it.”

Small, who is scrappy and relentless as well as nimble, also shared the following stats about “Football on your Phone”:

  • It is already the second most shared ad of the last 30 days (Geico is the most, which is a freak).
  • It is the most shared ad launched this month. In 3rd place is the NBC Sports ad for proper football, which possibly reflects where Americans’ real heart lies.
  • Its viral peak was on the second day of its launch (Aug. 7 or 7 Aug.), when it attracted 167,208 shares in 24 hours. On its first day it managed 116,067 shares. The third day was 91,094.

Small even set up a short interview for me with David Waterhouse, Unruly’s Head of Content and PR, so I could ask him why the social video is so much popular. (Imagine, a PR person setting up an interview with a PR person for a PR person! Either Small had the gumption to disintermediate the mainstream media on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, or she had the pluck to create the first Transatlantic Department of Redundancy Department.)

Below are Waterhouse’s responses to my questions.

Who is watching and sharing “Football on your Phone?”

The obvious answer is football fans, though the Manning dynasty is famous enough to make them cross-over stars. Though the American football season doesn’t begin until early September, buzz for the event has already started. Eli and Peyton may not be at the beginning of their sporting careers, but their appearance in a high-profile ad certainly adds to the hype.

What psychological responses is the music video triggering?

The primary response to the video is hilarity, because of the cheesy lyrics and performances (the Mannings are much better sportsmen than they are rappers). The style of the ad seems influenced by the Saturday Night Live hit, “D*ck In A Box”, with the brothers even having similar haircuts to Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. The fusion of two rather serious athletes with such a goofy format engenders surprise in the viewer.

What social motivations would trigger someone to share this music video?

The unexpected nature of it. The ad features two pro NFL players willing to dress up in silly ‘80s rap garb and put themselves out there. Fans of comedy rappers like “The Lonely Island” will be likely to share this kind of parody, as well as football fans who want to show their excitement for the upcoming season. A minor controversy involving DirecTV’s potential loss of NFL exclusivity rights in 2014 could also spurred the video’s virality, but “Football on your Phone” is mostly a silly lark.

In other words, I understood “An American Coach in London” because I’m over 35, know what it’s like to be an American in Great Britain, and have learned the hard way that English is the result of Norman men-at-arms attempting to pick up Saxon barmaids.

However, I didn’t understand “Football on your Phone” because I’m not under 35, hadn’t seen “D*ck In A Box” before, and had no clue that the Manning brothers were wearing bad wigs and silly ‘80s rap garb as an homage to Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg.

Peyton and Eli Manning in Football On Your Phone

Two weeks ago, I wrote “YouTube Video Insights for August 2013: But Wait, There’s More!” One of the factoids in the latest research that I mentioned in that column is this: “Gen C isn’t an age group: 65 percent are under 35, and 35 percent are 35 and older. Gen C is an attitude and mindset.”
When you are creating social videos for Gen C, you should focus primarily on attitude and mindset. But it won’t hurt to think about which age group you’re speaking to, as well. Each generation has its own language, culture, customs, and folk heroes.

And, to paraphrase Shaw (who really didn’t say everything he said), “The Baby Boomers and Millennials are two generations separated by a common language.” Even if they also happen to be football fans from the same country.