Battle of Brazil: What can we expect from World Cup advertising?

Jack_Lamacraft_008Before a ball has been kicked in anger at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the brands battle for the hearts and minds of global consumers is on in earnest. Jack Lamacraft looks at how brands will leverage global sports’ biggest show this year and what trends he expects to see play out over the next six weeks.

As opposed to the 32 teams vying for World Cup glory on the pitch, there are six ‘FIFA Partners’, eight ‘FIFA World Cup Sponsors’ and a clutch of Brazilian-based ‘National Partners’,brands who have paid much for the privilege of associating themselves with the 2014 World Cup.

Then of course, there is every other brand you can think of who want in on the party despite not paying the cover charge.

Most notable among the latter is Nike, who following the 2010 World Cup in South Africa had more people thinking they were an official sponsor than the actual official sponsor Adidas.

The combined fee that the official partner brands have paid for the rights from FIFA is estimated to be around $US1.25 billion. So, I guess the question is why?

First and most obvious, there is a huge global audience for the event. An estimated 700 million people around the world watched the last World Cup Final with a combined audience over the whole event of around 26 billion people. Second, the audience is engaged, passionate and even keen to hear from brands if they’re adding to their experience.

Sponsorship has evolved; it’s no longer done on the whim of the company chairman. It is a serious marketing channel and as such there needs to be a justifiable return on investment. Ultimately it needs to drive the bottom line.

So, what are likely to be the major trends and which brand is likely to be leading the way in Brazil?

Because the action will still overwhelmingly be consumed by a TV audience who are mostly watching it live, there is still an important role for the big budget, global TVC. Many of the long-form versions of these have already launched and I really like the McDonalds ‘GOL!’ creative (which I wasn’t expecting to). It taps into the online craze of trip shots and user-generated content.


Other brands have gone down a slightly more formulaic route using present and past players such as Emirates and their Pele / Ronaldo ad.


Visa have cleverly leveraged their association with Usain Bolt, one of the few sportspersons who rivals top footballers for global recognition.


Content will be really crucial this year. A major reason why fans love football is because the players are their heroes, brands that can entertain the fans with something they can’t get elsewhere will reap the rewards.

Nike, who as mentioned are not an official partner, are the kings of this and they’re at it again. At the weekend they launched a five-minute cartoon entitled ‘The Last Game’ which I can imagine will be extremely popular and lead to more people making an incorrect association that the tournament is their’s by right.


Another stand out is the ‘Game before the Game’ film from Beats, using their individual sponsorship of a number of high profile players; again it’s over 5 minutes in length.


Official partner Budweiser has worked with Vice to create a series of short films which give a different view on the game


Brands will also be competing for the second and third screens as many fans now consume sport while on their smart phones, tablets and laptops. Google will allow fans to tour the stadiums where the teams are playing using Google Maps which I can see being popular.

FIFA has created a number of games, which it has allowed its partner brands to own. Castrol has the predictor game which will allow fans to guess what’s going to happen in every match, McDonald’s has the official fantasy game and Hyundai has something similar called ‘Your 11’. It will be interesting to see which get the most cut-through as I can’t see fans using all of them due to their similarity.

Real-time marketing will also be important and this will be leveraged predominantly through social. Adidas are historically experts in this and are likely to have value-adding expert analysis and comment available to fans the minute things happen on the pitch.

Finally, brands will look to ‘surprise and delight’ fans and then leverage the stories through their channels. Coke has done this by taking fans from around the world to Brazil and creating films about them. I would imagine there will be a lot more content from the lucky participants as they experience the colour and excitement once the Cup actually kicks off.

It’s going to be a very busy time for a huge number of brands and I for one will be as interested to follow what’s happening off the pitch as much as what’s happening on it.

Jack Lamacraft is director of M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment


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