With all guns blazing, this year’s FIFA world cup has surrounded our lives in some way or the other, which makes this an opportune time to analyse as to what makes it tick and how other brands gain traction from it. Broadly from a marketing perspective, we have the capability to analyse how the Brazil edition of the world cup has marketed itself and then we can analyse how other brands have gained from it, either by direct sponsorship or just clever marketing, even though they might not be directly affiliated with the event.
The first and foremost task for an event of such a scale is to create a logo and a mascot which stays in the viewers’ mind. And for this edition of the event, this has been accomplished magnificently. The official logo is entitled “Inspiration”, and was created by Brazilian agency Africa. The design is based around a photograph of three victorious hands together raising the World Cup trophy and its yellow and green coloring is meant to represent Brazil warmly welcoming the world to their country. Also, the mascot is known as tatu-bola, an armadillo that defends itself from predators by rolling up into a ball.
For the sponsorship of the 2014 World Cup, FIFA has created a three-tier sponsorship structure. The primary tier consists of the FIFA Partners, the second tier of FIFA World Cup Sponsors and the third tier of the National Supporters for each FIFA event. Sponsorship is an important tool for brands in growing awareness and product distribution and building relationships with its business clients. This 3-tier structure provides varied freedom to these brands in associating themselves with FIFA. The World Cup, being four-week frenzy, enables brands to fight for consumers’ attention. Only the brands in these 3-tiers have official rights to embed the FIFA logo in their ads and promotions. But this does not stop other non-affiliated brands from leveraging the opportunity to promote their visibility. Soccer being a world-wide phenomenon, allows them to use strategies such as ambush marketing to cash in on the football fever without having to pay millions to FIFA as rights fee. Many a times, the generic viewer is unable to differentiate between the affiliated brands and the non affiliated brands, in fact, they do not care. This gives the non affiliated brands an edge over the others as they are able to use the money they spent on rights fee, on having a bigger advertisement budget and creating more engaging and creative ads.
The fact that tournament’s official sponsors and partners have had to spend so much money on partnership, they want commensurate returns for it. Due to which they often gain exclusive rights and put a lock on what is put in front of consumers at World Cup venues and on TV. For example, fans hoping to enjoy a cold beer at the World Cup in Brazil will not be able to purchase local favorites thanks to a restrictive official sponsorship agreement between FIFA and InBev, the world’s biggest brewer. This is the reason why many experts opine that companies would be well advised to consider eschewing official sponsorships in favor of emerging branding tactics that are cheaper, more innovative, and better able to connect with global audiences while respecting local stakeholders.
Although the World Cup is a big opportunity for marketers to innovate, there are inherent risks for brands too. There has been a huge uproar over the fact that a humongous amount of money has been spent on the World Cup so far. Many are of the opinion that this money could have been used to foster a better livelihood standard for many of the Brazil’s poor. Social unrest in Brazil has lead to a lot of blame being placed on the sponsors. For brands the question is whether to distance themselves from such controversies, or engage with the issues directly and take a stand. Rob Mason, managing director of sports and media business IMG Consulting International, argues that in most cases brands should avoid acting as the moral arbiters of wider issues and remember that they are ultimately “only sponsors”. If marketers can align creative and engaging campaigns with smart PR, their rewards from Brazil could be huge.
On the other end of the spectrum are other brands that gain mileage by somehow smartly incorporating the current events with their brand image to release an innovative advertisement/poster at the correct time to make hay while the sun shines. For example:
All it took Bud Light and 14th Street Pizza was some wit and creativity to incorporate the Suarez incident into their posters, and the brand visibility they gained without spending any substantial amount, is immense.
Also, soccer players have a great opportunity to cash in on their popularity during this season. For example, US team’s break-out star goalie Tim Howard can make a killing if he decides to dive full on it into it, as products such as sunblocks and security agencies would be willing to pay him any amount of money to rope him in their adverts.
Finally, a lingering question that is in one too many minds is that is sponsoring the World Cup worth it? Are the millions of dollars spent by the sponsors returned in sales growth? The answer is a bit complicated as it requires consideration of uniqueness of each of the industries. While ROI can be difficult to measure for major Sports Marketing investments, some directional results can be surmised. FIFA partners such as Coke, with immense scale and global presence, are likely benefit both in the short term and long term. The smaller, local organizations will likely find strong returns harder to attain as they do not have the scale to drive the sales necessary to recoup their investment.