Last week the World Cup squads for Brazil 2014 were announced. As the countdown to the big kick-off begins, the footballing predictions have started to come in thick and fast. The reality is that there is so much of this we can predict reasonably accurately already:
- A poor England performance (as supported by the government's recent stance on World Cup opening hours)
- A flurry of post-World Cup transfer activity - the rumour mill is already in full flow
- At least one player's future career will be blighted by a poor performance in a penalty shoot out
What is harder to predict is how the brands of the World Cup will act and perform. Why is this? Well, for starters there are 6 FIFA partners, 8 World Cup sponsors, 8 national supporters - and this doesn't even touch upon kit, boot and ball manufacturers. Add another layer onto this: this doesn't cover off the brands that have no official World Cup connections but will have campaigns orientated around the event. Add a further layer onto this: consider brands that will be buying primetime media slots around World Cup games.
Nonetheless, in the absence of Paul the Octopus (R.I.P.), I will give my best shot at what to expect from the remit of brands and marketing at Brazil 2014:
Twitter Will Be a World Cup Winner
At the last World Cup, the moment Japan scored against Cameroon a tweet-peak record of 3,085 tweets per second was reached. This record is now at 33,388 tweets per second, signifying the immense growth of this media channel. Layer over this the role Twitter has in both amateur and professional journalism, and the footballing characters who reside on it, and it is plain to see the sheer size of the World Cup audience on this medium will make it a hotbed for marketing activity at Brazil 2014.
Ambush Marketing Will Come to the Fore
At London 2012 the media were not just talking about Blake vs. Bolt and Phelps vs. Lochte, but also about Nike vs. Adidas and the suggestion that Nike sought to use social media to ambush Adidas' sponsorship of the games and generate their own buzz. The World Cup has a history of ambush marketing too - with 36 Dutch fans being ejected from Soccer City during South Africa 2010 and Bavaria beer having a civil case filed against them by FIFA. The headline grabbing ability of ambush marketing combined with the rise of social media since South Africa 2010 will mean that the stage for a summer of ambush marketing is once again set.
Personal Branding 101 - Footballer Style
The World Cup has long been a stage for footballers to show individuals around the world about how to market yourself as an individual. Who will ever forget Roger Milla's dancing at Italia 90? Or the haircut of Alexi Lalas at USA 94? In short, footballers will show a wider audience how it is possible to stand out from a crowded pool of your peers through the power of personalisation.
Just like the title of Dan Ariely's bestseller suggests, some actions by brands at the World Cup 2014 will appear highly irrational to consumers. For example, people will be bound to ask - why are McDonalds (a fast food brand) taking a prominent sponsorship space for an event which showcases high class, diet conscious, athletes? At a time when content proliferation has made consumers both more intelligent and more inquisitive, these questions are likely to be made with a louder voice than ever before - even more so with the rise of social media.
The Summer of Sport, the Autumn of ROI
Given the cost of sponsorship and affiliation with an event of the World Cup's stature, combined with the rising popularity of the highly cost-efficient communication avenue that is social media, marketers are more likely going to be looking at ROI closer than ever before in the months following Brazil 2014. News of the top performing campaigns, best awareness uplifts and subsequent changes in market share and brand equity vs. pounds spent will be concerns of the marketing professional long after the final whistle is blown.
In short, trying to predict what will happen in the battle of the brands at Brazil 2014 offers a fresh challenge to trying to predict what will happen on the pitch. However, it does give the more marketing-minded of followers an ulterior motivation for engulfing themselves in World Cup fever. After all, who needs penalties when you have ambush marketing?