Three Lessons from World Cup Marketing Campaigns

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Jon Le-Bon /

World Cup is in full swing and advertisers around the world are trying to put their best foot forward. This flurry of activity surrounding one the biggest event in the world gives marketers a unique opportunity to learn from the world’s largest brands. With so many ads out there, there are many examples of what works, what doesn’t, and what best practices should business owners follow. Here are three lessons that can be learned from some of the marketing campaigns from World Cup. and Hyundai – Everyone Has to Follow the Rules
As was mentioned in another article on this site, the organizers of big events like World Cup have very specific rules on how the event and their logo can be used in advertising. The travel website ran afoul of FIFA when they began advertising travel specials to cities in Brazil that are hosting World Cup matches. Their ads didn’t mention World Cup by name, but they did use the synonym for the game “Mondial” and they used the logo without permission. This was enough for FIFA to send them a cease and desist letter.

Hyundai found themselves in a similar situation even though they are in official World Cup sponsor. In this case, Hyundai produced an ad commemorating the Brazil team’s hard work and struggle. The problem with this is that Volkswagen was the official sponsor for the Brazil team. Hyundai was allowed to talk about World Cup in general but not if it’s an ad solely about a specific team. These two examples teach the same lesson: you must follow advertising guidelines, no matter who you are. Official sponsorship is big business. People are watching and they will take action against violators.

Google – Be Creative
Google has marked the World Cup event by changing the Google doodle on their homepage everyday of the tournament. The doodles are excellent example of creating images that capture the spirit of the event without breaking copyright rules. For example, on the first day of the tournament, the doodle featured a soccer ball with Brazilian flag colors (green and yellow) rolling across the screen. In the background, a scene is unveiled that features some of the country’s most famous landmarks. The search giant has done a different (copyright-friendly) image each day, including one to mark World Cup and Father’s Day at the same time. The lesson for marketers is twofold. First, you don’t have to break the rules to get people to notice an event-related marketing campaign. Second, be creative when producing content. When you’re competing with the entire world for the attention of your audience, “Tried and True” is another way to say “Easy to Ignore”. Think outside the box.

Adidas – Be as Big as the Event
Adidas made a big splash with World Cup this year by designing the new World Cup ball. Compared to the star athletes and national rivalries, the soccer ball itself is easy to overlook. However, adidas managed to parlay their new ball into a marketing success story of its own. The four-year design process has led to one of the most high-tech balls ever produced. While working to “to ensure that the ball is rounder, truer, more water resistant and consistent in all temperatures and elevations”, adidas has gained attention from public voting campaigns to name the ball and from testing the ball on three continents and 600 players over two and a half years. The end result, adidas announced that @brazuca has reached over one million followers on Twitter, gaining 850,000 of them since the World Cup kicked off.

“We will sell 20-percent more brazucas in the United States 2014 than we did of the last World Cup Ball,” noted adidas America’s director of soccer, Ernesto Bruce. “The World Cup is very exciting for us.  We pride ourselves in saying that nobody knows the game like we do,” Bruce said.

Adidas made the ball as big the event itself. There is a GoPro camera installed inside of the ball, so fans following @brazuca on Twitter can see the ball travel through the tunnel and onto the field and meet with soccer fans and celebrities, including Samuel L. Jackson.

“Fans who connect with and follow @brazuca will go through the player tunnel, the field of play before kickoff and into team huddles.  Unless you have an all-access credential, you have never been close to these areas.  It will help connect those outlying fans that maybe haven’t supported the sport in the past,” Bruce noted.

The lessons from adidas apply to events of every size. If a business is involved in a local event, they could use some of the tactics used by adidas (social media marketing, consumer engagement through polls, etc.) to use the event to market their business. If a business is connected to a popular local event, they should highlight their involvement so they can make the most of the extra exposure.

The amount of money it takes to become an official sponsor of World Cup, and similar major sporting events, means that its unlikely that small business owners will ever be official sponsors or run campaigns that are as large or as aggressive as the marketing giants. Regardless, the principles of good marketing and advertising are scalable. What works for large advertisers will also work for smaller ones. Make sure to pay attention to all the ads and marketing that come from World Cup. Learning from this content may be the key to increased traffic and sales for a business.

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