World Cup Fever and Sponsorship Activation Starts Now
Argentina and Portugal left it late but they qualified for the World Cup 2018 and you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief. Not from the millions of Argentinian and Portuguese fans but from the sponsors of FIFA, the national teams and their biggest stars, Messi and Ronaldo.
As you were probably aware two of the ‘best’ teams and the biggest football stars were until Wednesday night in jeopardy of missing out on next summer’s footballing party. How would Adidas (Messi) and Nike (Ronaldo) have approached World Cup activation with their leading stars on the planet sat on the beach next June and July? I’m sure they would have coped but with hundreds of millions invested in the teams and key players a less than ideal Plan B would have been required.
It is an exciting time, not just for football fans, but for marketers to see how brands activate around the World Cup. Our Future of the Sports Fan report details how fans are becoming more active and influential, so how will brands respond? What new technology will be used, will social media be able to create a bigger impact than 2014 and will Pizza Hut get their moment in the sun?
With the majority of teams now qualified for the World Cup next year (the play-offs take place in November) brands should be starting to implement their plans for the World Cup to ensure that every last drop of value is squeezed from football’s showpiece event.
Official World Cup and team partners have the chance to engage with a receptive audience but in turn every four years they have to battle it out with their unofficial competitors. Everyone wants to profit from the World Cup in one way or another and make their mark:
The iconic Nike TV ad in 1998 with the Brazilian team at the airport kicked things off.
Then Dutch brewers Bavaria caused a fuss, and generated plenty of publicity, with their guerrilla marketing activity at the 2010 South Africa World Cup.
And who could forget Paddy Power’s Brazilian rainforest stunt in 2014.
The USA, Scotland, Wales and the Netherlands, to name but a few, have not qualified. The USA’s failure in particular is a hammer blow for the development of ‘soccer’ in the States. Up against the mighty American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey US football has been building steadily. Now they have lost an impetus that has driven interest in the beautiful game every four years since 1986. Fox predicts a $20million loss in advertising sales.
So what can you do if your brand missed out on the prize and backed the wrong national team or player? Thinking back to 1994, the World Cup without England was understandably a disappointment. Without the hope and expectation (it is the hope that kills you) then a World Cup lacks its sparkle. Can you really get behind the tournament without a team to support?
I think brands who might miss out should seriously consider adopting an underdog, a non-conflicting nation to provide focus for their football loving audience. Iceland, the smallest ever nation to qualify, were the stars of Euro 2016. They generated good will whenever they played, knocked out the English (making them heroes to the Scottish) and would no doubt offer great value for money. What are the odds on the likes of Irn-Bru or Tennants taking up the mantle with the Icelandic team – you can see the Thunder clap in the TV ads North of the Border already!
I wait with anticipation to see how the World Cup unfolds, how we as an agency can get involved and how brands activate. Whatever happens we can be sure of an exciting summer next year on and off the pitch.
The cynic in me says I can, almost, guarantee the following:
1. Nike v Adidas content battle pre World Cup. Gratuitous TV ads with all their stars launched with much fanfare. Remind me, who is the official World Cup sponsor again?
2. At least one of the England players used across multiple sponsor marketing material will get injured and not play.
3. English media will provide a glimmer of hope and that’s all we need to believe we have a chance – of course the Kane/ Rashford deadly duo can do it
4. ITV to sign pundit with World Cup winner’s medal but a limited grasp of the English language
5. A Russian bear to follow in the footsteps of a long list of World Cup predicting animals
6. We’ll lose on pens, second round versus Italy in St Petersburg