First published in Times Live
Some of the sponsorship ''wars" are predictable and to be expected. But does the ''non" sponsor resort to a simple publicity stunt, guerrilla tactics or outright ambush marketing?
Bavaria Beer of Holland managed to orchestrate 36 nubile ladies in body-hugging orange mini dresses sitting together for the Holland versus Denmark game.
Of course, they did the same thing during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. But now we have a potential diplomatic incident brewing (pun intended), with a Dutch embassy spokesman in Pretoria saying they have asked for an explanation from the South African authorities. "We are not aware of any South African legislation that allows people to be detained for wearing an orange dress." But things are different in Germany. South Africa agreed to all Fifa's demands, and ambush marketing is indeed a criminal offence here.
As one wag (no, not ''wives and girlfriends") put it: South Africa has been rented out to Fifa for the next few weeks. In the cases of Canon (Sony is an official sponsor), Castle and Carling (Budweiser is a sponsor) and Nike (adidas is the sponsor), they are maintaining a high media presence without a hint of being mischievous.
It is also fascinating to watch all the television commercials, both those we are allowed to see in South Africa and those flighted on international channels. If you miss out, just click on YouTube. Just as repressive regimes have tried to block access to global communication - as in Iran, so Fifa has failed in its attempts. In some cases, the games people play have turned nasty, wars are raging. But for media junkies, we can watch the branding wars both on and off the field.
Are you aware that ''The Fifa Partners", the premier division of sponsors, comprises just six players: adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai-Kia, Sony and Visa? And of the second tier of eight, the ''Fifa World Cup Sponsors", three are hardly known, while Budweiser is making no effort to leverage any activity outside of the stadiums. Why should they, the product is only available in stadiums.
MTN, the local sponsor with the highest profile, continues to cluster bomb the media, having spent about R1-billion on the World Cup. The third tier of ''National Supporters" lists five members, with Telkom and FNB the most prominent. BP South Africa has taken a low profile; perhaps its woes in the Gulf of Mexico have played a role, although its TV commercials have prompted a few chuckles. But how many people have heard of Prasa or Neo Africa?
Arguably the most bitter battle will be between Adidas, a long-time partner of Fifa, and since 1954, sponsor of the German team and 11 other teams, and Nike. The German team alone costs $25.7-million a year, and other football sponsorship deals a further $125-million. In 2008, Adidas soccer sales were $1.8-billion versus Nike's estimated $1.7-billion. That is big business in anyone's book. But then, marketing is war. Perhaps another reason Nike's chief executive has been in South Africa, to be involved first-hand at the front line.
Certainly for the major sponsors, being part of the world's major sporting event is an opportunity to leverage their brands big time. Another major beneficiary should be Brand South Africa. On the one hand, we are told the event will add an estimated $13-billion to the economy - partly offset by the $2.6-billion spent by the government on stadiums, transport, infrastructure, ceremonies, and so on. Visitors will be about 385000, down from the initial 483000; and global television viewership of the final is expected to be about 715million (Time magazine); for 2010, the 64 games will be watched by 28billion viewers (Fifa), and it is estimated that over the four weeks, South Africa will receive the equivalent of R2-billion in ''free" television coverage. Both socially and economically, the positive impact should be significant. After all, in 2006, the German economy outperformed the rest of the world by 9%.
Watching all the television coverage and reading all the special sections in various international publications, one cannot escape the conclusion that on balance, South Africa is the winner. No one can escape the fact that the World Cup is happening in South Africa.
Some ambush marketing overseas is seeing the battle fought outside of South Africa. The boost to local manufacturers of merchandise has been limited. But retailers and supermarkets are having a field day as merchandise flies off the shelves.
In Germany in 2006, research showed that brands that demonstrated they ''were there for the fans" benefited from ''brand love". The year 2010 is one of the few truly global marketing opportunities to get your message out there and your brand up there.