World Cup Marketing Scoreboard: Budweiser 1, Adidas 6...

Winners and Losers in the $2.2 Billion Commercial Side of the Global Event

By Published on .

By now you know the results. The Italians have another gold star, les Bleus have, well, les bleus, and the rest of us are starting to forget a largely forgettable World Cup.
The World Cup, the world's largest televised event, is the annual pivot of enormously expensive global marketing campaigns. | Also: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
There were too few upsets, and there was too much diving, poor refereeing and a general absence -- Ghana excepted -- of adventurous football. But what of the other World Cup, the $2.2 billion marketing extravaganza? Results there are in and are unfeasibly high-scoring (because I made them up):

Emirates 0, Other Airlines 2
Like the other 15 official sponsors (at least half of which have evidently never heard of ROI or activation), Emirates stumped up around $70 million to be a FIFA World Cup partner. Trouble was people flew in from all over the world -- and hopped around Germany -- on lots of different airlines, most of which were not Emirates but seemed to be doing their best to pretend they were the official carrier. One German told me Lufthansa was the official airline -- an impression that might have owed something to the footballs painted on the nose of its planes. I thought it was Deutsche BA, which had decked its planes out in round-ball regalia and its flight attendants in Puma soccer kit.

ABC/ESPN 3, Commentators –2 (after PKs)
While Disney's duo reaped the benefits of increasing U.S. interest in the game -- ratings were up 55% on ESPN and 108% on ABC over last World Cup -- the commentators did their best to remind viewers that the U.S. is a Johnny arriviste in soccerland. They misread as many situations as they called correctly, showed scant understanding of offside; ignored 19 of 22 players on the field, preferring to pontificate endlessly about some star they'd actually heard of; and made up names for stuff that had even the most casual soccer watcher bemused. (Why penalties became PKs is anyone's guess.) On complaining to two Americans next to me in my local pub, one told me he watches the Spanish version when he's at home; the other said he turns the sound down and gets radio commentary over the web.

Brewers 5, Budweiser 1
It has been the summer of suds. In particular Carlsberg and Scottish & Newcastle have reported a 20% lift in sales. And Budweiser, too, will surely see a spike. But Bud just had to go pay $40 million for exclusive tournament pouring rights. And for that it got ... acres of negative press and an image crisis. Germans know beer, love beer, live beer. The colonization by the King of Beers sparked outrage, and Bud was widely decried as spulwasser, aka dishwater. One of the websites that sprang up in protest showed an American eagle vomiting beer. Eventually those lager-loving Germans got some respite as A-B did a deal with Bitburger to have that served in the stadia, too. Bud is still insisting the whole thing is a success, citing the fact that it outsold Bit by more than 2 to 1 on match days. Of course the fact that no one at the games I attended knew there was any alternative certainly helped jolly along those spulwasser sales.

Women 4, Media Planners 1 (according to Reuters)
Yep, according to one report, the media planners were outfoxed by the ladies. Women tuned in to the tournament in the hundreds of millions and ended up constituting an enormous chunk of the audience -- around 39%. But the media planners didn't expect that, apparently, because last time that figure was a few percentage points lower. Even Publicis chief Maurice Levy weighed in, saying it was a "new phenomenon, which has been undervalued and underestimated." The evidence, however, that women weren't being catered to was that the ads featured "bawdy humour and men playing football." Now, as we know, women don't like humor and, as to seeing men play football, of course they're not going to watch. Oh, wait ...

Lawyers 2, Semi-naked Hollanders 2
When you make $420 million selling sponsorships, of course you want to defend those sponsors rights, but one wonders whether the FIFA legal team -- which fought more than 1,200 cases against companies trying to ambush the tourney -- really did its sponsors any favors. Many Trinidad & Tobago supporters attended games topless after they were forced to remove T-shirts that sported the name of a Trinidadian wireless company. They got off lightly, however, compared to the 1,000 or so Dutch fans who were forced to remove their orange lederhosen and enter the game in their underwear because they bore the name of the team sponsor, Heineken, which, of course, isn't Budweiser. Bud, again, ended up looking like the bad guy.

Adidas 6, Nike 3
Unlike, say, Continental Tire ("Yes, Mr. CEO, I have indeed spent tens of millions to make us the official tire of the World Cup"), purveyors of sports kit actually have a good reason to spend huge amounts of money marketing around the event. And Adidas made hay on its home turf, getting more out of its official sponsorship than anyone else. It ran the best ad of the tourney: Two little kids pick great players past and present for a kick-about in the barrio, a sort of every-boy's-fantasy-come-to-life set to Jim Noir's "Eanie Meany" -- which became the default soundtrack of the month. Adidas also sold $1.6 billion worth of the official footballs, 3 million replica shirts and 1.5 million boots and, at least partly as a result, is enjoying "buy" or "accumulate" status among some in the analyst community. The Adidas-sponsored French team also made the final (and played the best football in the knockout stages). Unlike, say, the Nike-sponsored, pre-tournament favorite Brazil, which was not only a disappointment, but also dissed the more or less made-for-Brazil Nike slogan, Joga Bonito (Portuguese for "play beautiful"). Squad member Roberto Carlos commented: "Joga Bonito was invented by a sports brand. Brazilian football is intelligent and winning. ... When you start talking about the beautiful game, that's more about selling things." Nike did sell some things this summer -- its team polo shirts for women were a big hit -- but it also went suspiciously quiet on TV and the web during the cup (at least compared to Adidas), seeming to cede many of the key media spaces to its rival. Perhaps that was fortunate, because, frankly, this just wasn't a Joga Bonito sort of a World Cup.

Prostitutes 0, Church 0
Rumors -- aka stories by bloggers and hacks looking for World Cup-related fodder -- suggested the Germans were going to order up bus loads of ladies of the night from Eastern Europe to provide their services to the ranks of soccer fans, whose arrival would surely spark strong demand for such shenanigans. Cue church groups around Europe, and the International Organization for Migration, launching grassroots campaigns to complain to German authorities and the EU about said prospect. Said groups then claimed victory when there was no apparent increase in sex trafficking, saying that the pressure they had exerted had led to a clampdown on brothels. The ladies themselves told a different story, however, reporting that trade was even slower than usual -- a fact they blamed on soccer fans' apparent disinterest in sex.

Mastercard 1, Hyundai 1
You see it's a global event, right, and, er, everyone watches it. Well, a billion people tune in for the final, making it the largest televised event in the world so, um, it has incredible reach and cuts across cultures and stuff. That's why marketers like Mastercard and Hyundai spent hundreds of millions of dollars to be one of 15 sponsors and do ads that artfully link their brands to football. And, of course, there's incredible overlap between the demographics and pscyhographics of football fans and those of people who might buy stuff. And all the sponsors can set up fun stands outside the stadia, with cool games where fans get to kick a ball through a hole and win something. And the PR value is incredible. Hyundai has apparently calculated that it netted a "W7 Trillion PR effect" from the World Cup. That sounds slightly less impressive when you consider there are 950 Korean Won for every dollar, but still, it's a very big number. No wonder Mastercard is "disappointed," according to reports, that it lost out to Visa in the race to spend $220 million to be the official card of the game until 2020.

Germany 2, South Africa 2
The Germans were counting on the World Cup to boost the economy and improve perceptions of Deutschland and the Deutsch. They even launched a $30 million ad campaign to coincide with the Cup, declaring Germany "The Land of Ideas." So did hosting the Cup bring in die Geld? Some folk, particularly bar owners and TV retailers, said the tourney was a blessing. But many others said it didn't help their businesses because everyone spent a month watching fussball. Economists seemed equally confused: Some claimed it'll boost the German economy -- maybe even to the tune of 2 billion Euros or 0.5% of GDP. Others said it will have little or no impact. The longer term effect on brand Germany is, of course, even harder to quantify. There's no doubt the disciplined, humorless ... sorry, I mean there's no doubt that the Germans shed some of their national stereotypes by being fun-loving and welcoming hosts. They also gained some national confidence -- one taxi driver told me this was the first time Germans had felt comfortable waving a national flag since the end of the second World War. The "Land of Ideas" tag is unlikely to convince business leaders of Germany's status as a home of entrepreneurialism, given its burdensome labor laws and taxes, yet any visitor had to be impressed by standards of German education, the quality of the country's infrastructure and their organizational ability. An unbridled success? No, but a success all the same. The South Africa part? Well, that happens when it plays host in four years, but with commercial partners already signing up, hotels already booking up, and South Africa neatly piggy-backing this World Cup to get some PR exposure for its plans, my guess is the world stage will serve it well -- at least to show off its wealth of tourism assets.
In this article:
Most Popular