Marketing at the World Cup

Just 48 hours until one of the greatest sporting events in the world kicks off: the FIFA World Cup. I’m looking forward to seeing how marketers are leveraging the World Cup fandom, utilizing the marks they own or being creative on leveraging the fan’s passion for the game if they don’t have rights to the marks. It seems like during every World Cup, a brand gets aggressive and tries to ambush the event. In 2010, a Dutch Beer maker had 36 beautiful women dressed provocatively in the brand’s signature colors walk around the various venues in South Africa during the matches. Thereby infringing on rights that Budweiser has, not only in venue, but with anything even remotely associated with soccer in that country for the length of the tournament.  FIFA caught wind of it and promptly threw them all out of every venue. I wonder which brand will try to ambush in Brazil.

In the U.S., the worry will be use of the team marks in order for a brand to drive that affinity around the national teams. In 2010, Verizon used an actor wearing a green soccer jersey in many of their Hispanic TV spots. This made AT&T (The Mexican National Team sponsor) contact SUM, who manages the U.S. rights for MNT, and try to force Verizon to pull the ads. AT&T was livid, and they had every right to be. They have been a loyal supporter of the team for years, but you can’t blame Verizon for trying to be creative.

It will be fascinating to see how the brands use this next month. Soccer, which has historically been a “Hispanic” sport for brands in the U.S., will become more popular with mainstream America. Even the casual sports fans will be captivated by the allure of Brazil as the backdrop, the favorable match times, and a U.S. team which will face some very tough, high-profile, competition in the first two weeks.  What will happen if/when the U.S. and Mexican teams fall? What will happen if civil unrest in Brazil mars the Cup? Will marketers pull back? Are brands hitching their message to the national teams, the game of soccer, or the Cup? It will all be captivating. There is a lot of marketing dollars tied to the World Cup, and I can’t wait to see which marketers make those most of this once-every-four-year investment.

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