** BANK HOLIDAY SALE ** Get 20% off your order over £40 with the code MAY20 **

Perception is incredibly important when launching any product, especially if historically it is a product aimed at helping a condition as stigmatised as erectile dysfunction.

Whilst it is easy to buy sildenafil online today and effective ED medications can be bought over the counter of a pharmacy, this was not always the case.

Pfizer realised early on when promoting Viagra that it was as much about changing the conversation as it was about providing a proven medication that worked, and that would lead the discussion about who they wanted to endorse their new medication.

The first choice was Bob Dole, at the time a former presidential nominee and long-running American politician, who provided a stately, dignified and honest discussion about ED.

However, internationally, the biggest name to be attached to Pfizer’s campaign was the greatest football player in the world: Pelé.

Beyond The Beautiful Game

Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, is one of the greatest players in history, who was known for his amazing showmanship both on and off the pitch.

He is a great storyteller, which makes him captivating for many and utterly infuriating for those that know the truth or pay attention when he contradicts himself.

He did not stop a Nigerian civil war in 1969, and his goal total may include Harlem Globetrotter-esque friendly games and a goal he scored in the film Escape to Victory, but his skill, performance and popularity were plain to see beyond that.

It would lead to gigantic endorsements for Atari, McDonalds and was paid huge amounts just to tie his shoes, and so it was perhaps no surprise that Pfizer came knocking.

Interestingly enough, Pelé wasn’t initially convinced, and he claims in an interview with the Irish Times that his friends warned him to be careful, so he got a lot of information first about ED and how PDE5 inhibitors work and how ED is a global problem that is explored differently.

This led to this advert, first released in 2002 that was originally released in Portuguese and would later be translated into other languages (interesting fact: the English dubbed voice was provided by the voice of Darth Maul, Peter Serafinowicz) and distributed around the world.

It triumphantly declared that men would not suffer in silence any longer and asked people to talk to their doctor.

For Pelé, like other early Pfizer spokesmen like Mark Martin and Bob Dole, the focus was on men’s health. In Pelé’s case, it was about breaking open a taboo that existed across the world, and how ED could be a signifier of wider health issues.

On top of this, it was a message of hope; that ED is treatable, that medication is available that is convenient, discreet and highly effective for many people, and that the symptoms do not have to last forever.

Pfizer appointed Pelé as Japan’s first ambassador for ED, a position he was so proud of, he cited it this year after Christiano Ronaldo beat his all-time goalscoring record.