2010 World Cup – Thank you for having a burger!

Branding the World Cup: From Coca Cola to McDonalds…

There is a great saying that the world is full of advertising. Nothing can be more to the point when it comes to an International Sporting Event like the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Branding the World Cup is a multi-million dollar activity, involving some of the top and most recognizable brands on the Planet as long as they are part of the select and regimented tier system of brands involved and partnered to the event.

These official brands are listed as follows according to their seniority: International brands like Coca Cola, Emirates, Hyundai KIA, Sony and Visa are official FIFA partners. FIFA World Cup sponsors are Castrol, Continental, McDonalds, MTN, Mahindra Satyam, Seara, Yingli Solar. National sponsors, which are South African-based companies are BP South Africa, FNB Bank, Neo Africa, Prasa, Aggreko, Telkom which is the National Telecommunications provider, 20 Centres for 2010 the ticketing centres mentioned in the previous article.

Any companies which are not part of this group of partners and sponsors are completely excluded from advertising in any way during or near the matches at the World Cup venues. To the average supporter that means if you are thirsty during the game and would like to buy a cold-drink, it will only be Coca Cola or an afilliated product. Alcoholic Beverages will only be provided by Budweiser. When you sit comfortably in a FIFA approved stadium whether it be at Moses Mabhiba Stadium in Durban or Soccer City in Johannesburg, sipping your Coca Cola and munching on a McDonalds meal your eyes will not see any other Brands advertised around the stadia except for the FIFA partners, World Cup sponsors and the local National sponsors – so in between the soccer teams battling it out for the semi-final, only the bright red signs of Coca Cola, McDonalds and Emirates airlines will be flashing constantly, with subliminal messages saying buy me, fly me and use my product. Exclusivity is part of the deal. Visa, being the official World Cup partner is the only credit card accepted in the nine official FIFA stadiums, which means if you possess a MasterCard – leave it at home. Spectators will not be able to pay for food or drink, official merchandise during the games without a Visa card. On the Fan Guide it unequivocally states that FIFA World Cup prefers Visa. Incidentally Greece whose national team qualified for the World Cup and who are staying just north of Durban are sponsored by LG, the electronics giant. Life’s good!

For as the FIFA World Cup is as much about that beautiful game it is as just as much about Brand exclusivity and advertising revenues. The direct income generated from the purchasing of these brands using that VISA card will ensure huge profits for the group of massively powerful companies whose branding is part of the game. There is nothing wrong with having official sponsors. Most sporting and other types of events globally since the advent of advertising has had one form of Brand partnering from the Formula One Grand Prix to the Horseracing Events held from Durban to Dubai.

Remember the days when Cigarette brands were the official sponsors of Sporting events. The Rothmans Durban July, a great horseracing event held annually in Durban went suddenly with the passing of Government anti-smoking laws to the Vodacom Durban July, Goodbye Rothmans. Formula One suffered a similar fate. Once F1 Moto Racing was sponsored by major cigarette companies like Marlboro and Imperial Tobacco and is now sponsored by Vodafone, Shell and a range of airline companies. Now mobile phone companies have replaced cigarette brands as the official sponsors of Events both nationally and internationally, highlighted so brilliantly in the incisive 2005 film by Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking, which dealt with the demise of cigarette branding in America and the rise of a new advertising generated by the blossoming cellular communications industry in the early 1990’s. Think Vodafone, Orange, MTN and those are just the service providers.

So as spectators arrive in South Africa for the World Cup and have failed to purchase tickets, they can journey to one of the official public viewing areas in the nine host cities – known as Fan Fest’s, where they can sit back and watch the matches broadcast live on Sony TV screens, and according to the FIFA Fan guide purchase food and drinks from one of the multiple food and drink stores available – does that mean one of the numerous stands selling only Coca Cola or Budweiser with a Big Mac to soak up that soda or beer? So where does that leave the brands excluded from the Game or official Brand-partnering? In a very inventive frame of mind, for how does a company create marketing campaign based around an international event whose organization has prohibited any reference to it.

South African brands like the Department Store Woolworths which changed its marketing campaign in March to reflect the teams participating in the  upcoming World Cup featuring models wearing all the flags of the participating countries to more surreptitious brands like the takeaway Chicken franchise Nando’s which makes subtle references to the main event without being an official Brand partner. Then there is the case of British Airways, low cost SA domestic airline Kulula which ran into trouble by even mentioning the World Cup in their quirky but relevant advert – “Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What”, so now they have resorted to advertising without referring to the event, but through marking the absence of mentioning a particular event, have highlighted the spinoffs of the event itself, gaining the brand more prominence even by not referring to the event or its associated iconology which is restricted. Reverse psychology for Brand marketing!

While Brand Marketing for an event such as the magnitude of the World Cup is a complex theme, the tip of the iceberg is revealing itself and provided there is no global warming in 2010 there is a lot more to explore as this event unfolds. So branding the World Cup will be explored further in later articles in the countdown, during the month-long soccer feast and afterwards when the implications reveal themselves. In the meantime, grab a Coke, enjoy a Big Mac and switch on that Sony and let the games begin…

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