As Rio de Janeiro hosted its first World Cup game in a newly renovated Maracana Stadium packed with Brazilian and international tourists, protesters criticizing the billions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on the games were met with tear gas and a live round of ammunition.
It is within this frenetic context that Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Nike launched brand experiences for World Cup fans unperturbed by the protests.
A short distance from the protests and just behind Maracana stadium, Coca-Cola has unveiled a four-story house where visitors check out the view from the roof, peek in on the Coca-Cola.fm studio, strap into a virtual experience scoring the winning goal on the field, and of course, browse the gift shop and pick up a free Coke on their way out.
Visitors are let in 22 at a time and guided through the house from roof to gift shop in timed increments. The main attraction is the locker room, where you buckle your seat belt, put on Coke goggles, and enter a virtual reality of cartoon soccer players heading onto the pitch to the roar of thousands of cheering fans. Next thing you know your teammate is passing you the ball and you're in the game.
This is where the seat belts come in -- the impulse is to jump out of your seat, and more than a few fans tried to "kick" the ball from their seats. All this is followed up by the requisite product placement - a big gulp of Powerade during a break, and after you score the winning goal, your teammates celebrate by quenching their thirst with bottles of Coca-Cola.
Fans exiting the virtual game called it sensational, really well done and awesome, and were trying to figure out if they all made the same goal or had different points of view in the game.
Anyone can visit Casa Coca-Cola if they wait in line, but the Budweiser Hotel in tourist epicenter Copacabana is for VIPs only. Budweiser has done a full takeover of the beachfront Hotel Pestana, installing massive flatscreens over the hotel entrance and rooftop pool, blanketing everything black and red, and building out lounges on three floors. And the only people allowed to join the party are guests of Budweiser, including all hotel guests over the 32 days of World Cup. The hotel's agency is Banco de Eventos and Budweiser's lead agency is Anomaly.
The A-B InBev brand has so far hosted parties featuring Fat Boy Slim, Nicky Romero and June's Playboy Playmate of the Month. Guests can watch all of the games in the Budweiser Lounge, where they can drink unlimited beer and get a bottle custom-engraved with their own name. Soccer fans who can't make it on the VIP list or even to Brazil can still participate and vote on the "Man of the Match" for each game on Facebook, Budweiser's microsite or FIFA.com.
Budweiser and Coca-Cola are official FIFA World Cup sponsors, but the brand that won World Cup South Africa in 2010 -- with twice as much buzz as any official sponsors, including Adidas -- was Nike. And if Nike's presence in Rio is any indication, they may be up for their second consecutive World Cup win.
The company has taken over a massive warehouse in Rio's port area for Casa Fenomenal, a hypercolor mish-mash of futsal tournaments, foosball, Xbox One FIFA14 games, dribbling competitions with a real-time scoreboard, passinho (dance craze) battles and live shows every Saturday night of World Cup.
Massive wall art features local graffiti artists like Panmela and Bruno Big. Soccer fans can browse a complete genealogy of Nike World Cup jerseys, uniforms of Nike's 10 World Cup selection partners, and the Nike F.C. collection, and try on the new Magista and Mercurial Superfly lines. There are computers to shop the Nike.com store, free wifi for everyone, phone-charging stations, and Pepsi, Smirnoff and pizza for sale.
On June 14, Kobe Bryant was playing a pick-up futsal game and Brazilian hip-hop star Emicida performed. Upcoming nights feature Carnaval legend Ivete Sangalo, funk artists Bonde do Tigrão, the drumming section from the Portela Samba School, Diplo and Lebron James.