Billions of eyes around the World are fixed on the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil. In the first week of the tournament we’ve already witnessed some memorable moments. Lets look at a few of them before we look at the big brands involved at marketing to the global audience .

We’ve had stunning goals…

Referee spray…



Emotional celebrations…

Missed chances…

Amazing skill…

Rubbish skill…

and shock results!

It’s been an amazing spectacle so far and we’re only 1 week into the tournament in Brazil. For big brands, the marketing opportunities for this truly global event are too huge to pass up. In years gone by, only the richest brands could afford marketing on a global scale during a tournament like this. However, the Internet completely changed that. Today, any company with a social media presence can tap into this huge audience without spending fortunes – but as we shall see, some market themselves much better than others.

The Good

World Cup marketing success in the past was measured by profits, and this is of course reigns top of most brands objectives but in this digital age, it’s not all about profit. Brands are realising that they can achieve as much brand exposure through their ‘owned’ media channels like YouTube as they can through external sources such as print and television. With this comes the competition for views, social shares and virality, the metrics of choice for today’s marketers.

One of the best adverts of this World Cup comes from an unlikely source – Castrol. By getting the most marketable player at this year’s World Cup, Brazil’s Neymar plus rally/stunt driver Ken Block, Castrol have made a video that not manages to embody the ethos of their brand but also the flair and excitement of Brazilian football.

For a brand that is by its very nature completely removed from football, Castrol have produced a video that is engaging, unique and has garnered them a not unimpressive 15 million+ YouTube views. Pretty impressive for a video that could well have been filmed in a pub car park.

McDonald’s kept it nice and simple this World Cup and focussed on football rather than their fast food without a pro footballer or celebrity in sight. The whole ad is just people doing trick shots, but it works. A woman does some keepy-uppies in high heels, an old man does the same on a beach. What McDonald’s do well is capture the innocent spirit of the game and appeal to a wide audience, young and old.

Twitter made a small but interesting tweak to help further position itself as the social media platform of choice for up to the second news, comment and reaction for the World Cup, by integrating its new ‘hashflags’.

It is easy to forget that Twitter, as much as any other brand, still has a need to drive traffic and retain users, especially during big events and they don’t come much bigger than the World Cup.Hashflags have certainly helped contribute towards this.    


The Bad The trend for World Cup marketing has seen some brands attempt to appeal directly at lads (16-30). Bordering on sterotyping and sexism (more on this from The Guardian), this following advert is just one of many examples of this type of targeted marketing:  

Now we don’t like to dwell on the negative but this Asda merchandise designer who created this KKK themed wearable England football flag deserves a special mention. Chances are they no longer work at Asda.


The Dirty

The World Cup in recent times has seen two of the biggest sports brands in the World (Nike and Adidas) go head to head. Nike it seems have once again proved to be the champions when it comes to World Cup brand marketing.

Nike is so good at advertising and event promotion that it sometimes seems as if no other company is even playing the same game. Brendan Greeley (Bloomberg Business Week)

Adidas have been official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup tournament since 1970 and invest over £10 million per year to position themselves as FIFA World Cup partners. Nike on the other hand, are not official FIFA World Cup sponsors, but you would be forgiven in thinking otherwise. Nike market their brand brilliantly and this tournaments World Cup ads show that Nike have the knack of creating memorable videos. The clever thing is that the video never mentions the World Cup itself, and it’s a cartoon!

The Adidas World Cup advert on the other hand is bland in comparison and takes a strange direction depicting the entire World Cup as a horribly vivid anxiety dream.

Beats headphones are the new boys on the block when it comes to global marketing. Apple acquired Beats Electronics for $3 billion a few months ago and going forwards will be a marketing force to be reckoned with. But what is their World Cup marketing all about? It’s a Rocky-style training montage except all the players are wearing ‘Beats’ as they train. Why? Maybe it’s to drown out the sound of onlookers taking the mick out of their haircuts. You see players, rappers and presenters all in this video because they understand how great Beats are. And slum children, who presumably dream of one day growing up to listen to second-rate dubstep through a set of magical earmuffs.

It just seems a little on the aggressive side but Beats Electronic are known for “guerrilla marketing” tactics to bypass licensing barriers. During the 2012 Olympics in London, for instance, the company sent thousands of free headphones to high profile athletes including the U.S. basketball team and the entire British delegation, outsmarting official sponsor Panasonic.

News from a few days ago of world governing body FIFA’s licensing agreement with rival electronics maker Sony Corp means players now have to take their Dr Dre Beats headphones off when they are in World Cup stadiums for official matches and media events. Marketing experts say that this will probably only amplify Beat headphones appeal. “When fans see World Cup athletes wearing Beats in their downtime, by choice, it has as much impact as seeing them lace their Adidas (boots) or sip a sponsored beverage,” said strategist Ellen Petry Leanse, a former Apple and Google executive.

During the 2012 Olympics in London, for instance, the company sent thousands of free headphones to high profile athletes including the U.S. basketball team and the entire British delegation, outsmarting official sponsor Panasonic.

Final Score?

As social media is a strong metric that today’s market base success on, let’s look at the stats between Nike and Adidas, the two big sports brands of this World Cup. Nike Football has 37 million Facebook followers to Adidas Football’s 18.2 million. Nike Football has 2.03 million Twitter followers to Adidas 1.27 million followers.

In terms of the World Cup ad, Nike continue to dominate with Nike’s advert having 48,874,179 million views compared to Adidas World Cup advert having 35,286,513 million views. It’s a narrow victory for Nike, but one that is certainly representative of Nike’s competitive edge over Adidas in modern World Cup advertising, a great example of how well thought out digital advertising trumps event sponsorship in this new media age.