Jul 06, 2009 at 01:47 PM
written by Kevin Hanft

Key Marketing Facts for Sponsors of the FIFA World Cup

So, the US unexpected performance during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup raised soccer awareness in the States for a few days. As important as that is, it also served as a good reminder that the FIFA World Cup is only 11 months away. We’ve heard the rumors and echoes whether South Africa was even going to have the chance to host the event. Clearly, the show will go on, albeit with some added attention to hotel accommodations and transport.

And yes, those annoying vuvuzellas!

Most American fans and marketers place greater emphasis on other sporting events ahead of the World Cup, however for most of the world; it is THE competition like no other. Given that, I offer some ideas and perspective on FIFA World Cup marketing:

  • It is HUGE - everywhere but the US. Football/Futbol/Soccer has the highest awareness and affinity of any sports brand across the globe. More people play, follow and watch it than any other. The sport has an everyman appeal – it is simple and universal – requiring only a ball, pitch (field) and 2 goals; the rules are not overly complex. Fans cut across the spectrum of demographics.
  • It’s Mass & Niche.The TV audience is very large - 2006 Cumulative TV audience of 26.29 billion (24.2 billion in-home viewers, 2.1 billion out-of-home). Yet, local marketing opportunities abound, in each of the 32 countries participating and especially so in the host country. Keep in mind that the World Cup mark/logo has much lower audience recognition and awareness than the Olympic Rings.
  • It's not easy. Few sponsorship relationships ever are, but working with FIFA and the local organizing committee can be a very taxing exercise that will test the patience of anybody. Success will require that you be clear on your objectives and requirements, know the rules, know when to be flexible, and know when to stick to your guns.
  • Everything is Al a Carte. A World Cup sponsorship doesn’t come with much in the way of out-of-the-box strategy or activation programs. The rights to use the event marks are valuable, but pricey. Sponsors are largely on their own to create and leverage activation programs that drive business value. FIFA has a few standing programs (Fan Fest public viewing, Global Trophy Tour & Domestic Trophy Tour) that can be leveraged on a buy-in basis.
  • The FIFA Calendar is Marketing Friendly. With a very defined four year schedule of qualifying matches, milestone events (Final Draw, etc.), Confederations Cup, plus a full month of World Cup competition, there is ample opportunity to build and execute cohesive and timely programs over an extended period.
  • Broadcast advertising does not work. If you don’t know, world soccer is not very TV advertising friendly. The game action runs for a continuous 45 minutes per half – no commercial breaks, no timeouts. There are on screen presence opportunities, but like sponsor field boards, they don’t deliver a message. Ad dollars may be better utilized on-line and in non match settings.
  • Outstanding customer hospitality opportunities, but tricky. World Cup hospitality is among the most aspirational of all sports. Done well, a World Cup hospitality program can help a company enhance valuable business relationships in ways that will have lasting, positive impact on its business. But it can be complicated. Typically matches are played in 10 -12 cities in the host country. Guests often desire to see the ‘major’ matches Semi-Final or Final, or want to see their home country play, which makes good coordination and client management critical. Matches are not schedule for everyday of the event, so sightseeing and cultural activities allow for a great experience.
  • It’s the World Championship of Football/Futbol/Soccer. The athletes are all well paid professionals who compete for various clubs around the world who join the national team for this event. Unlike the Olympics, there are few athlete hardships and no great societal causes. So don’t expect to wrap yourself in corporate responsibility. FIFA has some charitable activity, but it is not a sponsor thrust.
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    Kevin Hanft has first hand experience activating and managing FIFA World Cup programs in 2002 & 2006


    Kevin Hanft is principal at Marketing Leverage LLC and has 20+ years experience practicing strategic marketing and communications for brands such as AT&T, Avaya, Johnson & Johnson, Lucent and Mayo Clinic. Most recently, Hanft was VP Global Account Director at IMG developing and executing global marketing programs for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Hanft's insights can also be regularly found at http://kevinhanft.blogspot.com.