Four Global Marketing Lessons Learned From the World Cup (So Far)

soccerThe 2014 FIFA World CupTM kicked off (soccer pun intended) on June 12th. We are nearing the end of the group stage, and a lot of teams have advanced, others have been eliminated, and some are still playing for a chance to reach the knockout stage. In sports, the teams that are most successful are the ones who assemble the most talent, but also the ones who practice, prepare, and strategize. A similar philosophy applies to global marketing – in this case, for the World Cup, one of the largest international sporting events occurring every four years.

Think about it – when did we first start seeing World Cup-related advertising? Coca-Cola began their sponsored FIFA World Cup™ Trophy Tour on September 2, 2013 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 9 months before the tournament was set to begin. With a giant global stage in front of you, brands of all sizes want to get their message out there on the pitch.  For them, it is all about engaging an international audience and potentially winning new customers. What examples and lessons have we learned so far? There are many, but are a few.

1. Social media is a great way to get in on the conversation.

This started from the top right on down with FIFA. Their “Social Stadium” has been a great aggregate for social media content centered on the World Cup from different outlets including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. To get a handle on how much social media engagement has centered on the World Cup; there are about 350 thousand tweets per day about the event using hashtags #FIFAWorldCup2014, #Brazil2014, #FIFAWorldCup, #WorldCup! Do all of these followers speak English? Most likely not. FIFA has done a great job connecting with multilingual users, providing not only localized websites, but Twitter accounts in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Arabic.

2. Make it about your brand, but also make it about soccer, the fans, the culture, and the event.

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A great example is Adidas, a FIFA partner. Adidas has been supplying the official match ball since 1970. This year, the ball is named “brazuca,” a name chosen via social media by over 1 million people. The meaning is a more local term for “Brazilian” and their way of life. The color and design are also based off the Brazilian flag and the official World Cup logo. After the name was chosen and the ball designed, Adidas decided to connect the ball with fans through an official Twitter account @brazuca in English and Portuguese and also a camera inside of the ball to travel inside the stadium tunnels. This campaign has been a great way to connect with fans through the eyes of the soccer ball from the planning phase to the playing field. The marketing plan was well-executed and created a positive campaign centered on the World Cup while highlighting Adidas’ connection to the game of soccer.

3. Even if your product has nothing to do with the event directly, be creative.

Okay, so the Adidas example was a little more straightforward. Their products are used directly on the pitch. What about if they are not? Then, what do you do? Look at Castrol – their main product is motor oil. So how did they do it? Find a connection. They found a connection to soccer by highlighting how their product produces top driving performance, and also using famous Brazilian soccer player Neymar, Jr. and professional racecar driver Ken Block. The result below is quite good.

4. Music can help strike a note with a global audience.

Music is an important part of culture, and culture is an important part of global marketing. What’s really interesting about the World Cup is that it is not like the Super Bowl where it’s all about the commercials. Advertising during games is at a minimum. The two halves are played almost straight through. Brands can still connect with people due to the popularity of video-sharing sites such as YouTube. This is especially important when it comes to music. The World Cup has had an official song and/or anthem since 1962. The songs themselves are usually multilingual and include English, the language of the host country, and a lot of times, Spanish, too. Brands have used music in their global marketing in a couple ways so far. Coca-Cola has used local artists in local languages for “The World Is Ours.” Dannon’s Activia ad featuring “La La La” by Shakira features the Spanish pop star and Brazilian singer Carlinhos Brown while also incorporating soccer, Brazilian culture, and language into the song. Enjoy this ad from Beats by Dre, not an official sponsor of the FIFA World CupTM, but a great ad all the same as it puts together a great ensemble of athletes using Beats headphones to prepare for their big game or match.

After all, bringing this full circle, a great global marketing campaign, like a winning soccer team, requires a lot of preparation and great execution.

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