World Cup 2014 and the Battle for Brand Supremacy

Image Source:  Unilad Magazine

Image Source: Unilad Magazine

Quadrennial FIFA World Cup in Brazil was launched earlier today. Usually, I’m not a huge fan of football (or "fútbol" as per Adriana Lima x Kia's World Cup ads),  nevertheless, I found myself, like millions of others, eagerly awaiting those feverish four weeks.  What's fascinating about this year's world cup is that weeks before the first match, brands have already started going above-and beyond and fighting over World Cup consumer's attention-- and this year's fight is unprecedentedly intense. Brands around the world have devised specific strategies and allocated special campaigns to be part of the long-awaited event, however, the relationship between global football sponsors and the FIFA is no longer consisting of handing over money for pitch-side promotions on billboard. Instead, World Cup sponsors are becoming much more aware to the non-commercial, social and political role they can play as financial supporters to this huge sporting event.

According Nigel Curries, from Brand Rapport, a sports sponsorship agency, "companies and brands are becoming increasingly aware, and have an added push and impetus towards showing ordinary people they are aware that there is a social aspect to being a sponsor".  The result, brands are acting "slightly cautious" and no longer "launching their usual type of marketing strategies in case they are targeted by protesters," says Rio de Janeiro-based sports marketing consultant Amir Somoggi. 

Whether sponsors are being cautious  or not, it certainly feels to football fans everywhere like the 2014 tournament will not consist only of the 32 countries taking part in the event, but will also include a side challenge between the 22 corporate backers to have their names associated with what is one of the biggest events in the sport industry-- and whatever the cost, these sponsors will have their services and products featured to millions of people across the world.

By operating three tiers sponsorship, as was the case in South Africa, FIFA is is estimated to make about £850m over a four-year World Cup cycle, which amounts to the majority of its non-TV revenues during such a period:

A- Global Partners: who have a global marketing association with all FIFA events, including:

Adidas, Coca-cola, Hyundai, Kia, Emirates, Sony, and Visa

B- Eight Event Sponsors: who have a global association with just the World Cup and the Confederations Cup, including:

Budweiser, Castrol, Continental, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, Moy Park, OI, and Yingli

C- Eight Local Partners/ National Supporters: who have roots in the host country and are allowed to promote an association in the domestic market: 

Apex Brasil, Centauro, Garoto, Itau, Liberty Seguros, Wise Up, Football for Hope, and

Image Source:  Daily Inspiration

Image Source: Daily Inspiration

Other brands which are not officially FIFA sponsors, namely Google Youtube, Beats, Nike, Pepsi, Heineken, Samsung, amongst many others, did not miss the opportunity to launch their World Cup 2014 campaign to their public.

Sponsor or not, the below section will provide you with a quick glance at the most popular marketing campaigns and the battle for brand supremacy over FIFA 2014:

1- Digital Customer Engagement

As a result of the digital shift, marketing and advertising have forever changed. Major sporting events such as FIFA World Cup, or the Olympics, are the perfect place to witness the manifestation of marketing and advertising across the various digital platforms.

Traditional media sectors like TV and radio are predicted to have a revenue bounce during FIFA 2014. However, brands are investing most of their talents, efforts and resources in popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to ensure the virality of their content. Paul Smith, founder and chief executive of Repucom, expects digital consumption to be central to this year's World Cup. He adds that "Brazil is also Facebook's second largest market and provides YouTube with its second most unique visitors". 

Adidas has launched its biggest campaign in which it allocates a much larger budget to be spent on digital marketing rather than TV ads. Such a fact is fascinating, knowing that during the 2010 World Cup only 20% of marketing budget was allocated for digital. “It’s not about a need to do ‘the big TV ad’,” says Tom Ramsden, global brand marketing director for Adidas football. “This will undoubtedly be the most social World Cup ever and probably the most social event in history.” Perhaps Twitter is the perfect platform to manifest just how important of a role social media will play on this year's World cup, since the  number of tweets pertaining to FIFA 2014 to date has already exceed the number of tweets of the entire World Cup 2010, and this is only the beginning.

2- #Hashtag Wars

Hashtags have now become as valuable as 30 second commercials. "Connecting with fans by posting through social is a critical opportunity for advertisers, who can engage with these viewers and potentially capture the momentum of Twitter TV activity around games to amplify brand messages," Stephen Master, SVP of sport at Nielsen. 

Twitter is already leading the battle in Social Media by launching a dedicated timeline where users can keep up with all 64 matches and experience action both on and off the field using official hashtag #WorldCup. Similarly to Twitter, Director of Global accounts at Facebook, Will Platt-Higgins, explains that "for the first time in 2014, we, all of us, are carrying around a mobile stadium in our pockets, where you will be watching, learning scores, team sheets, changes, injuries, substitutes—all of it—and sharing it. That is a hugely compelling thing for a marketer. This will undoubtedly be the most social World Cup ever and probably the most social event in history.”  

From amongst the hashtags to use and monitor during FIFA 2014 are: 

#worldcup / #joinin/ #hashflags

Image Source:  Fifa

Image Source: Fifa

 #allin  - Adidas

#futbolnow  - Pepsi

#everybodysinvited  - Cocacola

#riskeverything  - Nike

#galaxy11  - Samsung

#welcometobrazil  - VISA

Image Source : High Snobiety

Image Source: High Snobiety

#onestadium  - Sony

#becausefutbol  - Hyundai

#alltimegreats  - Emirates

#riseasone  - Budweiser 

#passthelove  - Mondelez

#travelvictories  - Marriott

Image Source:  Marriott 

Image Source: Marriott 

3- Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors are important as they are the representatives of a brand and a positive spokesperson to boost product/services sales to influence customers, and create brand awareness. Celebrities are great brand ambassadors because their high status and fame can be transferred onto the brand they support. They widen the size of potential customers by inviting their fans and followers to support and buy from the brand they are representing. Brand ambassadors are usually looked upon as role models and trend-setters who influence large audiences.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who happens to have more than 26.6 million followers on Twitter, is Nike's brand ambassador. When he tweeted Nike’s second World Cup ad released on its YouTube channel, there was a surge in views that topped 70m in  just few days, and that is only a small example about the power of the brand ambassadors to ensure virality and views. 
Nike also released "The Last Game",  a five-minute animated short film that includes Ronaldo and other soccer stars that aligns with its #riskeverything World Cup social campaign.

On the other hand, Nike's nemesis, Adidas, choose Lionel Messi to leverage their global TV campaign using the tag line of “all in” in order to push consumers to engage on social media platforms including Twitter. Whereas, Kia used the beautiful Adriana Lima as the representative of their Wold Cup Ads campaign.

4- Integrated Campaigns

One of the good examples of a successfully integrated campaign for FIFA 2014 is Mcdonald’s. It has changed the look of its iconic red French fry packaging globally with bold, new artwork to celebrate the FIFA World Cup 2014. In addition, the new fry boxes will be the key to “unlocking” a new Augmented Reality (AR) app called GOL! that will reward customers with an engaging, virtual trick-shot challenge. 

Image Source:  Mcdonald's 

Image Source: Mcdonald's 

When asked about the campaign, Steve Easterbrook, Senior Executive Vice President and Global Chief Brand Officer of McDonald’s, said: “this is about bringing fun, innovative programming to our customers and celebrating our shared love of 'fútbol'. We’re excited to be able to do that through an engaging, interactive mobile experience, and of course with our World-Famous Fries.”  

Another good example is Budweiser, which has plenty of initiatives around the tournament, including a "Rise as One" micro-site campaign, the use of Twitter cards for voting for "Man of the Match", as well as campaigns specific for Instagram and Facebook.

Adidas is aiming to provide a football match perspective from the point of view of @Brazuca, its official match ball.

5- Nike VS. Adidas: 

Nike wants a piece of football, but it is Adidas who needs it most! Similar to all major sport events, there is an inevitable tug of war between  the world's largest sportswear company, US Nike, and its runner-up, German Adidas. If we are going to discuss facts, it is only fair to admit that when it comes to football, Adidas has more experience than Nike, because Nike did not invest in soccer until 1994,  the year in which the World Cup came to the U.S.. "Football is the DNA of our company. We want to clearly show that we are number one in football,” says Adidas Chief Executive Herbert Hainer.

Adidas has sponsored FIFA since 1970 and last year extended its sponsorship agreement to 2030.  With Adidas losing its advantage as being the lead sponsor in all other sports, including the London 2012 Olympics, it is trying nevertheless to hold on tight to football. Significantly, Adidas relies more on the European market, where football is the only sport that matters.

''Although we're not a sponsor of the World Cup itself, we connect where it matters—by partnering with clubs, federations, and elite and everyday players,’’ commented Nike's Dermott Clearly, global VP and general manager for soccer. In FIFA 2014, Nike will sponsor 10 national teams, more than it has ever done before, whereas Adidas will sponsor only 9. Nike has Cristiano Ronaldo, Brazil, Portugal, and Ronaldo. Adidas has Spain, Germany, and Lionel Messi, and the Argentine,  four-time winner of the Ballon d’Or.

6- Familiar Emotions

Football as a game has a great worldwide emotional value. Significantly, brands and sponsors will work relentlessly to capitalise on that fact by allowing their campaigns to draw a smile on people's face or show the passion behind the game, and celebrate how the World Cup successfully unites people from different parts of the world.

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