It was the event of the summer, and many of us are still trying to get over the unmistakable whirring of the vuvuzela stadium horns that filled the airwaves as the 2010 World Cup took over every bar and living room from Johannesburg to Jersey City.
In host cities across South Africa, the visceral buzz was just as powerful as brands and sponsors from all over the globe descended on the stadiums from June 11 to July 11 to connect with football fans (or “soccer” fans, for all you Americans) that turned out in the millions to root for their country’s home team. Football touches billions more fans than even the Olympics. The 2008 Beijing games, for instance, garnered 4.7 billion TV viewers. During the 2006 FIFA World Cup (the tournament is held every four years), 26.9 billion people tuned in. The secret to its global appeal? Mass accessibility.
Football is a sport that transcends class. Rich and poor kids alike can kick around a ball, or in some cases, any old round object they can find (some play with plastic bags formed into a ball or even rocks). Anybody, anywhere can play—and therein lies the magic of a sport that resonates with billions—billions that marketers hope to connect with leading up to, and during the matches.
There are only 20 official World Cup sponsors, a number FIFA says it plans to maintain in order to preserve the value of its deals. However, the tournament has become such a popular event over the years that its sponsors have pushed for more visibility beyond the host country. This push for greater value paved the way for a series of FIFA Fan Festivals in 2006, financed by the official sponsors in cities with heavy football fan bases.
“Being officially part of the World Cup is far more powerful and productive than ambush or mere association,” says Toby Shaw, head of sponsorship at Sony Europe, who hired London-based Iris Worldwide to handle its 3D product immersion experience at this year’s Fan Festivals. “As a sponsor, we could rely on media exposure, but what good would that do the fans looking for experiences? The International FIFA Fan Festivals are an excellent way to be as close to the finals as possible, without being there. It’s a great way of telling people how Sony is contributing, by providing the opportunity to enjoy the finals in 3D, for the first time.”
The festivals continued this year with each official sponsor interacting with fans during the games in Berlin, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Paris, Sydney and nine additional cities in South Africa. The significant number of visitors to the Fan Fests in 2006 (Germany gathered millions at the Berlin festival) meant more connections for sponsors to make with fans in 2010. During this year’s Mexico vs. South Africa match on June 11, for example, more than 150,000 fans in total watched the game at the Fan Fests in Johannesburg and Soweto. And that was just one of the first games of the tourney.
Like Sony, all of the official sponsors took advantage of the Fan Festivals to interact live with fans in cities outside South Africa, and some launched additional campaigns that leveraged the buildup and anticipation in the months before the tournament. Here’s our look back at the official, and not so official, activation highlights surrounding the 2010 World Cup.
On the day before the FIFA World Cup game between England and the U.S., the official video game of the football tournament set a new Guinness World Record for the most players (82) to compete in a single football video game in a surprise stunt in Trafalgar Square in London. EA streamed a live feed of its 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa edition game to a big screen for about 50,000 spectators.
UK-based handling agency Circle Agency transformed Trafalgar Square overnight into an immersive football environment with an 80-square-foot LED screen draped in the tournament’s host country’s colors. The experience included performances from African dancers dressed in colorful animal-themed costumes and vendors offering traditional South African food. For more playing pleasure, EA set up 19 gaming stations where visitors could get their game on and enjoy one-to-one demos from the EA team.
The surprise stunt was part of a series of events EA started in the spring to promote its 2010 World Cup edition online multiplayer game, which allowed fans to play according to what was happening in the actual tournament in real time. As the World Cup unfolded, the game updated accordingly, and as countries and players dropped out, gamers couldn’t play with them anymore either. Harsh? Maybe. But a jolly good time, nonetheless. Visit fifa-worldcup.easports.com for more.
As the first renewable energy company and the first Chinese company to officially sponsor a FIFA World Cup, the Yingli Green Energy Holding Company brought its solar energy services to life in South Africa’s Soccer City commercial display zone in the Johannesburg stadium.
Yingli made the connection to the tournament through its internal football team made up of football-passionate employees who were flown to South Africa to demo their playing skills and exhibit a bit of Chinese culture by performing the traditional lion dance. There was also face painting and caricatures that fans could take home as souvenirs.
The solar technology came to life in a semi-transparent module where a display showed solar cells producing electricity in real time. The exposure in South Africa was a big plus for Yingli because Africa is a sun-rich country, making it an ideal market for future solar business. Fans could learn more by scanning a QR code with their mobile devices and taking home a wallet-sized card that drove them to yinglisolar.com. The carbon-neutral display used only sustainable materials like bamboo, and was built in South Africa to cut transportation-related CO2 emissions and to stimulate the local economy. Yingli also teamed up with FIFA’s Football for Hope organization that supports social development and sustainability (SportsMark Management Group, San Francisco, handled).
Watching football and drinking an ice cold beer goes hand in hand, so being the official brew of the tournament was a shoo-in for Budweiser. (However, it didn’t stop competitors like Corona and Dutch beer brand Bavaria from getting in on the action with some ambush activities that made headlines. See below for the full scoop.) Despite the disruption, the official beer of the championships continued to engage fans with its winning combo of experiential and digital with Bud House, a “Real World”-style reality competition broadcast online and filmed in a local home outside of Cape Town that housed a fan from each of the 32 countries participating in the games. When a team was eliminated, the fan from that country was kicked out of the house. The two left standing attended the finals to cheer on their home countries; the winner presented Budweiser’s Man of the Match award to the World Cup Finals Most Valuable Player.
Since 2002, McDonald’s has given football families one of the most meaningful experiences at the tournament, the Player Escort program. Children submit essays and videos and the brand selects children from around the globe to walk out on the pitch hand-in-hand with football players and engage in kid-friendly activities like football matches. For this year’s tourney, 1,408 kids participated.
The official restaurant of the World Cup also created the McDonald’s Fan Dancers program led by acclaimed South African dancer and choreographer Lorcia Cooper. Cooper held auditions and provided training on dance routines to 40 South African women who attended the World Cup and performed at 21 matches. Leveraging the power of digital, the company added its Ultimate FIFA World Cup Fan online search challenging fanatical fans to express their love for the game through photos and videos on mcdonaldsfan.com. Fellow fans voted for the best team of fanatics, which were granted tickets to the semi-finals and finals in South Africa. For the media, the company opened up its Exclusive McCafé inside the International Media Center in Nasrec, next to Soccer City Stadium. It was the “it” destination for reporters covering the event, and home to free signature McDonald’s beverages and food.
Though there are definite perks that come with an official FIFA World Cup sponsorship, times are tough in the corporate world. For some brands, going the unofficial route makes more sense, even for some past sponsors of the championships like search engine Yahoo! (a 2006 sponsor), which this year went at it alone with an online challenge for fans in Berlin, Jakarta, London, Madrid, Paris, Sao Paulo and Seoul (see it here). The website was a way to lure fans to the site for World Cup news.
“We can’t use names and likenesses that we don’t have the right to, so everything is Yahoo! Penalty Shoot Out, it’s not World Cup Shoot Out. Nothing is aligned to the FIFA World Cup,” says Jen Aman, buzz marketing manager at Yahoo! “We have a lot of content including sports scores and commentators that will go up online. We can still get actively involved in the coverage of it without being a sponsor.”
The top two point leaders at the end of the online competition that ran May 10 to June 25 were flown out to Rio de Janeiro to compete against each other in a live penalty shootout with professional goalie David Seaman for a chance to win the The Yahoo! Sports Pass. The Pass winner received two tickets to any four sporting events of their choosing each year for the next four years, plus free travel, lodging and food (Havas, London, handled).
Though Corona didn’t have women in short orange dresses ambush the Mexico vs. South Africa match (see below) it did interact with its football-passionate consumers with fun competitions in select markets. Corona Extra and Corona Light hosted Corona al Campeon sand foosball tournaments (the sand was actually shuffleboard wax) at select sports bars in Hispanic-heavy markets, like Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco from May 17 to June 26.
The competitions were managed by Crown Imports, the brand’s North American distributor, and provided attendees with a chance to sample the product. The two winners from Chicago, L.A. and San Francisco won a trip for two to Mexico to meet the Mexican team and watch them play at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City (Pro Motion, St. Louis, handled).
Surprise stunts and guerrilla marketing campaigns can spark a media firestorm, but sometimes it can also get you burned. In 2006, when the Cartoon Network set out to promote “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” with a 10-market ambush marketing effort, the company never could have imagined the publicity the stunt would generate. It also couldn’t have imagined the $2 million penalty it ended up paying to Boston-area authorities after placing black boards with blinking lights depicting the show’s “Mooninites” characters in high-traffic areas. The electronic boxes were misconstrued as bombs, which sent the city into panic.
That same year during the FIFA World Cup in Germany, Dutch beer company and unofficial sponsor Bavaria provided Dutch fans with branded orange lederhosen to wear to the games (orange is the Dutch national color). Bavaria’s repercussions in 2006 weren’t severe. Those wearing the lederhosen may have a different opinion, though—they were punished by being forced to strip down to their underwear if they wanted to enter the stadiums.
This year Bavaria did it again, however unlike four years ago, this year’s stunt resulted in arrests. On June 14, during the Netherlands vs. Denmark match, two Dutch women were arrested for allegedly violating trademark laws after a group of 36 women turned up at the game wearing short orange dresses. FIFA—which has been fighting ambush marketers for years in order to protect the rights of its official sponsors—accused Bavaria of flying out the two women to run the ambush marketing campaign in South Africa and handing out the bright orange dresses to local women before the match, according to the UK newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. Bavaria initially denied any part in the stunt.
“Bavaria’s intention with the Dutch dresses had always been to generate pleasure and enthusiasm amongst the football fans. This was very well understood and appreciated by the international audience in and around the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg,” Eva van den Hout, Bavaria spokesperson said in a statement released on June 16. “The Dutch Dresses didn’t have a big brand name logo. Over 200,000 orange dresses had been sold in supermarkets in the Netherlands with an eight-pack of Bavaria beer.”
Six days later, Bavaria and FIFA reached a settlement agreement wherein FIFA agreed to drop any claims, including the charges against the two arrested women, and Bavaria agreed to respect FIFA’s commercial program until the end of 2022. No worries, the attention they received this year should hold them over until then. EM