Football is the most popular sport in the world. It’s easy to understand (except maybe what an offside really is), has a huge segment of casual fans and everyone of all ages and economic background can play; all you need is a ball. This summer in Russia, the World Cup 2018 was the highlight of the year and fan or no fan, everybody was feeling the hype.
With millions of viewers guaranteeing their attention to the screen for a full one hour and a half (plus halftime and extra time), any brand would think advertising and branding in this event is a good idea. The brand value of the World Cup is estimated to be at USD 229 million, making it the third most valuable sports event in the world, after the Superbowl and the Olympics.
From sports brands like Adidas and Nike to electronics brands like Vivo and Hisense, big brands were fighting over the spotlight through partnerships and sponsorships. Regional media partners were also scrambling for exclusive broadcasting rights. In the interest of their valuable sponsors, FIFA had strictly prohibited players and their delegates from showing any brands other than the sponsors throughout the tournament. Most recently, a Swedish player was heavily fined for wearing a pair sock that was not Adidas during a match.
While we may not be able to fork out millions to sponsor and win bids for promotional rights, we can still talk about the World Cup. It’s a great way to engage with customers who are likely to be fans of the game, aside from getting your brand known during this surge of social media shares and Google searches.
So what can we learn about branding and advertising in the World Cup? How do other brands, yours including, can benefit from this seasonal hype of intensified nationalism for a foreign country?
During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Dutch airline KLM had to pull down a post on Twitter after offending the Mexicans through a racist ad. The Twitter post, published after the Dutch team defeated the Mexicans, depicted a sombrero-wearing moustachioed caricature beside an airport departure sign. After receiving many angry tweet replies, KLM had the post immediately taken down and issued an apology, learning that racism is never funny.
A more recent campaign blunder was stirred by Mastercard through a campaign to donate food for children for every goal scored by Messi or Neymar. It was well-intended but the public did not agree. The campaign appeared short-sighted, opportunistic and even cruel to leave the fate of children in the hands of football millionaires. While some say the campaign had good intentions, it translated poorly to the public and Mastercard cancelled the campaign due to the negative reaction they received.
Mastercard made a pledge to donate food to 10,000 children with every goal scored by the two Latin American football superstars. It was canceled days after the announcement due to heavy criticism from the public.
Take the example of Astro, our local broadcaster of this year’s World Cup. Their commercial captures the football fever with humour and relatability. The 2-minute long promo pokes fun at the many ways we get distracted from our daily tasks just so we can watch football. It’s ticklish, but it also showcases what Astro offers its subscribers; an unlimited stream of football matches on multiple devices. </br/>
Other brands like Nike also advertised their support for the Brazilian team, pulling off the emotions of perseverance, grit and determination and managed to make the audience feel pumped-up to watch a game. Nike is the sponsor of the Brazilian team.
Local RTM radio Traxx.fm’s Facebook page managed to get some engagement by sharing some fun trivia about the World Cup and football, which led to better brand recognition. Even we ourselves can’t help but join in the conversation.</br/>
On the month the World Cup was talked about the most during the knockout rounds, we shared some statistics about brands and football fans, news about the game’s sponsors, and even wrote this article! The conversation has to be relatable to the topic and your brand. While you are talking about football, you want your audience to know of your brand identity, without appearing too hard-selling.
The World Cup is a force to be reckoned with, despite its critics. It demonstrated the effect it can have towards a brand and the business, such as what happened after the German team shocked everyone with an early exit. Adidas, the sponsor of Die Mannschaft, saw their stock fell 4 Euros in the preceding days before slowly catching up again. </br/>
How we consume the World Cup will change over the next decade, what with mobile screening and social media sharing. However, the tournament itself is not going anywhere. As the game in Russia ends, Qatar is set to be the next host in 2022, then North America in 2026. One thing for sure, as long as there are football fans, there will be viewership. Thus, there will be sponsors and big brands fighting to grab a seat.