Should World Cup Advertisers be Worried?

Should World Cup Advertisers be Worried?

Brazil is poised to host both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, two of the biggest international events on the planet. The World Cup alone – now only 10 months away – is set to attract millions to the stands and be watched by billions on TV. Clearly, this is a golden marketing opportunity.

However, hosting both global events means that Brazil has had to spend vast sums of money - $31 Billon to prepare for the World Cup, a one-time event. This has provoked widespread anger over the rising cost of living, rising public transportation costs and poor quality education. Indeed, even though the government now has funds at their disposal, many Brazilians have not seen their day-to-day lives improve.

Some protesters have even subverted and appropriated advertizing slogans like Fiat’s "Vem pra rua" (Come to the streets) and and Johnny Walker’s "O gigante acordou" (The giant has awoken). Is there credence to the idea that hosting a world sporting event – The World Cup or the Olympics – encourages development? What impact will these protests have on advertizing campaigns and brand behavior?

World Cup 3.0: What has changed? 

How can a world sporting event inspire its publics? For Thierry Lardinoit, Professor of Marketing for ESSEC Business School and founder of the School’s International Sports Marketing Chair, two factors are playing more important roles than ever:

First, these types of international events have become increasingly associated with geopolitical and economic benefits. On the one hand, the Olympic Committee has created a strong brand around the idea of social development. Meanwhile, even though FIFA do reinvest and support local development initiatives, they haven’t been able to put to bed the idea that they just want to organize a big, powerful event, rather than leave a legacy. FIFA’s Sepp Blatter’s comments about having made a mistake in choosing Brazil would seem to reinforce this idea.

 “This year, as with almost every World Cup or Olympic Games, hostile demonstrations have made the atmosphere tense in Rio,” he explains. “ Even if Brazilians are proud of hosting, this shared perception by the population strengthens the feeling that the Brazilian people will pay for these big events and this money will not serve to improve the population’s life or the country governance.”

Second, social media is bigger than ever, which may be compounding the spread of this feeling of resentment: “Fans are sharing a lot of positive messages, but there is also a lot of backlash as the public rallies against what they perceive as an unfair situation.  Some local brands have even had to put their social media campaigns on hold for the time being.”

National pride or resentment? Will the 2014 World Cup be able to inspire?

As in years past, many brands – like Coca-Cola for example – will be involved in CSR objectives through which they will try to build positive messages and connect with fans. Professor Lardinoit argues that this is important, but that there is more at stake. And its something that both the FIFA and Olympic Committee need to take seriously.

“FIFA has an important mission before them,” he explains. “They need to inspire their fans to play! There are only 265 million people who play football today, almost half the number boasted by basketball. The strength and longevity of the sport are at stake, and this is something that FIFA should be worried about because if they can’t connect to spectators, the World Cup loses can’t be considered a good marketing platform?”

In an effort to more accurately measure an event’s ability to inspire, the International Sports Marketing Chair, along with Eurosport and Toluna launched this October the International Observatory of Sport Consumption, an international platform providing actors from the world of professional sports with the tools to gauge their media campaigns and their capacity to inspire audiences. Indeed, if organizers and sponsors do everything they can to increase the fervor of the fans, but they know that it is a sine qua non largely insufficient to ensure their future.

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