When you and I were 11, chances are we were busy playing the newest Nintendo game. René Silva, a 20-year-old from Complexo do Alemão, one of Rio’s biggest favelas, was busy creating the community’s first newspaper, Jornal da Voz, nine years ago. If that's not impressive enough, he recently traveled to Harvard University to present his project and discuss the role of social media in front of 180 people.

Content Squad Brazil FIFA world cup 300
Content Squad selfies

René was part of the Content Squad, a group of young Brazilian teens scouted by Coca-Cola to document the excitement surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup from the streets of the host country. With backgrounds ranging from journalism to photography and the arts, these teens had one objective: put their communities on the map by highlighting social issues and challenging commonly held perceptions.

Poverty, violence and drugs. That’s what many people think of when presented with the term favela. Surely, that is a reality, but it is also a fraction of what favela entails. “Favela is a lot of things together,” says Igor Valente, who was responsible for the Content Squad's video production and editing. “Drugs are a little part, but the major part is noble, humble hard-working people who don’t have enough money to live elsewhere.” 

Raised in Alemão, Igor makes documentaries presenting the favela in a different light. He is the most outspoken of the group when it comes to shattering taboos. His latest project, Meu Nome è Favela ("My Name is Favela"), explores the origin of the world-famous slums and questions the negative connotations behind the term favela.

“Why is it called favela and not community?” Igor asks.

Favela is also music and dance, an integral part of Brazilian culture. Born in the favelas of Rio and inspired by hip-hop in the '80s, Funk Carioca is today one of Brazil’s most popular and widespread genres. Lucas Alves Gomes, Web developer for the Squad, is proud of this musical influence and seeks to expand it even further. Last year, he produced and directed Favela em Dança, a Funk Carioca festival that attracted more than 5,600 people to the streets of Cantagallo, a favela in Rio. “My favela has nothing,” he says, “so I want to promote it.”

Visiting Rocinha: An Eye-Opening Experience

I met René, Igor and Lucas, along with the rest of the group, in Rocinha, the biggest favela in South America. Michel Silva, a 20-year-old from the favela and editor of the Squad, was the day's host, organizing a barbecue for Brazil’s match against Mexico.

Celebratory kiss

Built on a steep hill overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Rocinha is the most populated favela in Brazil with an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people living in its intricate labyrinths. Everyone here knows Michel, one of the founders of Fala Roça, the community’s newspaper, and the creator and editor of vivarocinha.org, an online portal.

Michel met us at the entrance of the favela to escort us up to his house. I am told that as "strangers," it is safer for us to enter accompanied by a local. Arriving with Michel would give the group a "seal of approval." As René later explained, favelas are not necessarily safer now that they have been "pacified." Before, gangs provided protection to inhabitants. Now, neither gangs nor the police control the area, effectively creating a security vacuum.

Michel’s motivation to start Fala Roça and vivarocinha.org is closely related to the process of pacification. “In 2001 when the police came,” Michel says, “big media outlets only talked about the bad things, the drug cartels and the insecurity.” Both of Michel’s projects focus on exposing social issues but are mainly platforms for positive initiatives and connecting inhabitants to what their community has to offer. 

From Social Media to Social Enterprises

Much like Michel, René’s journey as a young journalist took off during Pacification. At the age of 17, he became a Twitter sensation in Brazil, reporting live on the occupation of Alemão following the gangs’ retaliation against the Pacifying Police Units. In only 24 hours, his Twitter account went from 180 to 35,000 followers.

When it comes to social media, René and the group are nothing but experts, developing their activities through social media platforms. Stella Ribeiro, the photographer of the group, recently was published in a local newspaper after her work was spotted on Facebook. “René uploaded the picture and they just asked to publish it,” she explains.

For Luan Chelles, YouTuber and founder of PapaGoiaba, a talent agency, social media is all about getting noticed. After Luan posted an interview with Pablo Dutra, a dancer from his hometown of San Gonzalo, an agent invited Pablo for a trial, eventually landing him a place at the Lion King show. “There is too much talent unrecognized,” Luan says. With PapaGoiaba, Luan aims to expose this talent, interviewing artists and making video clips to promote them, all for free.

From World Cup to World’s Cup

Now that you know all about the Content Squad you may be wondering what the group was up to during their time with Coca-Cola in Brazil. Over a span of three months, the group didn’t just produce countless pictures and videos of the FIFA World Cup; they immortalized the emotions of the "World’s Cup."

Tears of joy

As Wendy Clark, president of sparkling and strategic marketing for Coca-Cola North America, said at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June, the FIFA World Cup is the “most ubiquitous and democratic event ever.” Coca-Cola is everyone’s drink and Brazil, one of the most inclusive countries in the world, hosted everyone’s game, so it was natural for the company to convey this spirit of universality and brand its global marketing campaign, "The World’s Cup."

The Content Squad project was an integral part of Coca-Cola’s message. From the stadiums, to the favelas of Rio and the FIFA Fan Fest in Copacabana, the Content Squad captured the FIFA World Cup from diverse perspectives, all delivered on a real-time basis.

Real-Time Marketing

Coke's "World’s Cup" campaign, composed in part of the Content Squad but of other initiatives like the Happiness Flag, enabled the company to experiment with operating in a real-time environment on "any given day."

The imperative to operate in real time has been largely driven by teens and Millenials, Coca-Cola’s core target.

The Content Squad exemplifies the efforts made by the company to adapt, producing content by teens for teens, on the spot.

Speaking of the Content Squad’s achievements, Adriana Knackfuss, Coca-Cola Brazil’s Real-Time Marketing Director, said this was just the beginning. “The idea is to keep on working like this on an on going basis, and Rio 2016 will definitely be the next big stage for real-time marketing.”

To see more from the Content Squad check out their Tumblr account http://juntetodomundo.tumblr.com/

To learn more about Real Time Marketing check out Wendy Clark’s remarks at the Cannes Lions Festival https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y564ncqJoUI