After 31 days of intense competition, millions of Spaniards around the world will have woken up this morning (those who bothered going to sleep, that is) to the madre of all hangovers. Meanwhile, the Oranje nation will be coming to terms with a team that for the third time in its history couldn’t quite make it over the final hurdle.
Although the curtain has been drawn for the FIFA World Cup on the field, what about the brands that spent millions securing the official partnership off it?
If there was a World Cup of brands, which ones returned home early in disgrace along with the French, and which ones ended up with a Furia Roja tattoo (The Red Fury- nickname of the Spanish soccer team) emblazoned on their chests?
During my 10-day visit to South Africa, I took in seven matches in six different stadiums (including THAT English shot that crossed the line) and was able to keep half an eye on the official partners. In particular, I noted how all tried to engage the attention of the millions — those who attended matches as well as those watching in the official fan parks, main squares and shopping malls.
First round loser: Budweiser
While no other brand was more in demand in the stadiums, Bud’s overall presence was virtually nonexistent. The brand invested heavily in advertising in major Western markets but appears to have ignored the host country. Did no one tell them that the largest groups of foreign visitors to the World Cup were Brits and Americans?
Hyundai’s efforts were at least more interactive. To build on an extensive ad campaign, spectators attending games were invited to leave their World Cup legacy by signing Hyundai’s giant inflatable footballs, which matched the colours of participating teams.
The clever branding of hundreds of Hyundai coaches that transported teams and dignitaries around the country was also a smart way to generate awareness.
Sony’s messaging was concentrated on promoting its 3-D television, a market that it clearly wants to own. By setting up a 200-seat pavilion in Johannesburg’s Nelson Mandela Square and smaller versions outside stadiums around the country, Sony was able to demonstrate the 3-D experience to thousands of consumers.
While the product demonstration (showing footage of a game from the previous day) was impressive, the delivery was a bit too slick and mechanical. Messages were shoved down our throats with “make.believe” and “Sony brings you 3-D” repeated ad nauseam by the local presenters. The brand needs to loosen up its attitude in order to create a more authentic two-way dialogue with its fans.
Visa’s strategy in the World Cup was simple.
1. Be everywhere
2. Drive usage of Visa cards
As well as having an enormous branded presence at all South African airports, every shop (seriously, every shop) in South Africa had Visa’s “Go Fans” signage plastered on windows, shelves and even hanging down off ceilings.
A friendly shop assistant informed us that Visa achieved its ubiquitous presence by employing an army of foot soldiers to visit every retailer and offer giveaways, bonuses and end user promotions. Every two days a rep would return to ensure that all the signage was still in its proper place.
Everywhere we went we were encouraged either implicitly or explicitly to pay with our Visa cards. Which by the time we got back on the plane left us thinking: Master who?