The World Cup is quickly approaching. Gareth Southgate has chosen his 23 man squad that will be travelling to Russia and the full on Twitter rows over the quality of England’s team have already started.
Inevitably the relentless marketing surrounding the tournament has already begun and for the next eight weeks or so, you will be hard pressed to find a TV advertising break that will not feature at least one advert referencing the tournament and its sponsors. Growing up, I loved the build-up to a major tournament and the adverts that came with it. Nike’s effort for the Japan and South Korea 2002 World Cup remains one of my favourite advertising campaigns of all time – a secret 3-a-side cage football tournament featuring some of the World’s best footballers, Eric Cantona as compere and the Elvis vs JXL ‘A Little Less Conversation’ soundtrack.
The football kit manufacturers always lead from the front, with access to players, large budgets and long-form storytelling creating campaigns that really do live long in the memory, including Nike 2010 ‘Just Write It’ Ad and the nostalgic ‘Jose+10’ Adidas campaign for 2006 World Cup.
Is it worth sponsoring?
Arguably in the build-up to a tournament, Nike and Adidas are a rule upon themselves as the purchase of a kit enriches the World Cup experience for fans and makes them feel part of a tournament at home. But does being an official sponsor have an effect on non-athleisure businesses? And how can non-sponsors utilise the tournament to hack into a mass audience?
It’s always been questionable whether or not officially sponsoring a major tournament has a major effect on the bottom line for the companies involved, however with the rise of social media- and the viral campaigns that come with that- the question of whether or not it’s actually worth it is more predominant that ever.
Last week I read a really interesting article in The Drum, featuring data collected from Oath, suggesting that only 1% of Brits say they’re more likely to use brands sponsoring the World Cup. This is quite a remarkable stat, especially when taking into account the vast numbers that businesses are paying for the privilege. Chinese smartphone maker Vivo signed a $400 million deal last year to sponsor the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and there were a total of 20 sponsors for the 2014 World Cup.
The research interestingly also shows that as a nation we’re a lot less brand receptive than our global counterparts, with 35% of Brazilians suggesting they would be more likely to buy from a brand following its association with the World Cup.
So with a UK audience that, by the looks of it, wants to be marketed too in different ways, what can UK advertisers do to piggy-back on the leverage caused by a major football tournament?
How to get involved?
First of all, it’s worth noting that any use of FIFA trademarks or tournament imagery can carry heavy fines, with legal teams constantly scouring social media channels to identify marketing campaigns that are using the tournament for leverage without paying for it.
But ultimately with a savvy marketing strategy and using the social media tools available to all of us, the World Cup (and other major international tournaments) present a massive opportunity to brands and with the tournament a little under a month away, I’d like to take a look at some campaigns from past tournaments that really hacked into this occasion to take their message to the masses.
Iceland sponsor….. Iceland
To borrow an overused commentary term, frozen and chilled food supermarket Iceland played a blinder during Euro 2016. Their namesake had qualified for a major international football tournament for the first time in their history and as the tournament progressed, became one of the great stories that year. Despite having the smallest population at France 2016 (around 330,000), 12% of the nation’s population attended the tournament as fans as their team qualified from a difficult group, knocked out England and captivated world-wide audiences with the now famous Viking clap.
Upon qualifying for the tournament, football fans flocked to Twitter to congratulate the Nordic country but many of their messages were misplaced and instead sent to the supermarket. At the time, Iceland Food’s social media manager Andy Thompson (now of Fansbet) said ‘suddenly it made perfect sense; rather than supporting just our main national teams, why not get behind yet another, as our second choice, to double the fun?’
This saw the supermarket sponsor the country and create a partnership that featured a wide-range of pre-tournament content focusing on the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the nation. Then as the tournament went on, the campaign developed in real-time as the team progressed.
This included changing store branding to ‘England or Iceland’ in the build-up to the game and dominating the conversation on social media after the minnows knocked England out.
Speaking now about the success of the 2016 campaign and how they went about it, Andy said “It all came about while sat at home watching another mundane England game and doing some work. As I sat there our social feed was getting busier and busier as people began to congratulate us on qualifying for the Euro’s. Now, much of it was tongue in cheek and it was good fun engaging with many of them. This led us to approach the Icelandic FA with an idea. However, nothing would prepare us for what happened and what the campaign produced. In just under 2 weeks we trended around Iceland game and reached 73 million people with our content and had over 2 million views of our video content with the Iceland players. I knew it was a success when our ad got parodied following the England game, Ewan Macgregor retweeting us and me appearing on Talksport!”
PaddyPower offends everyone to make a point
During the first week of the 2014 Brazil World Cup, PaddyPower made headlines internationally by releasing a series of aerial images that appeared to show messages that the bookmaker had made in the Amazon forest by clearing trees. Further photograph angles of the stunt made their way on to Reddit to give more evidence that they really had left the message ‘C’mon England. PP’.
As you can imagine, this offended pretty much everybody with the press and social media both going into meltdown with the deforestation of the amazon being described as the ‘most idiotic stunt ever.’
Following the backlash, PaddyPower then released the truth. The stunt was, in fact, an elaborate hoax to raise awareness of global deforestation, with PaddyPower citing research that shows an area the size of 122 football pitches is chopped down every 90 minutes.
The images were actually computer generated – over 1.5 million trees were digitally removed from the Amazon rainforest to create the message – with the aim to drive traffic and awareness to Greenpeace’s movement to save rainforest wildlife.
PaddyPower have never been shy about attracting controversy and with this stunt, they invited the initial wrath of the general public to create a real debate around a just time. A statement from PaddyPower at the time read “we knew we’d drop off a fair few Christmas card lists yesterday, but we couldn’t resist a bit of fake Twitter mischief to highlight an important issue to football fans as our World Cup warm-up. At least it gave people something to get animated about during last night’s England-Honduras bore fest.”
Dave goes nuts
I really enjoyed this final example because of how weird it was. In the run-up to the 2016 World Cup, the comedy TV channel Dave was looking for a unique way to promote their suite of upcoming football shows; England’s Top 19 Heroes, England’s Top 53 Footy Goals, and England’s Top 39 Footy Gaffes.
Again sticking with the Brazil theme, they challenged artist Quentin Devine to carve 5 of England’s five footballing legends out of Brazil nuts. Armed with only a magnifying glass, a scalpel and a bag of Brazil Nuts, Devine set about the challenge spending a painstaking 96 hours per sculpture.
It took 53 nuts to get to the final five sculptures – of Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham, Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney- with the most time being spent on Lineker’s ears.
So with the stats around official sponsorship looking ropey to stay the least, brands have proven time and time again that a bit of creativity and using other channels can really provide a big win for your brand at a major tournament. Will your business be getting involved this year?