World Cup Sponsors Get their Appraisal

Hello everyone,
On June 18, I wrote an article on how non World Cup sponsors are linking their brand to the biggest football event. Consumer’s awareness on Nike as a World Cup partner significantly increased. I based my sources on a survey The Nielsen Company carried out from May 7th to June 6th 2010, therefore before World Cup starts.

NM Incite, Nielsen Mc Kinsey Company, issued a follow up survey from June 11-25th*, and the results is worth looking at. In fact, the World Cup sponsors are now trusting the VIP seats of having their brands associated to the FIFA World Cup.

In the “Nike wrote its future” article, I pointed out that although not being a FIFA Sponsor, Nike managed to link its brand to the World Cup. This achievement is strongly due to many elements. The “write the future” marketing campaign contributed to a huge online buzz. On field, Nike sponsored 9 Federations during the World Cup** with key players such as Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Drogba regardless of their  performances (which were poor). Another element to consider is Nike positioning itself as the football brand caring for the environment.

However, since World Cup started on June 11, adidas recovered and positioned itself at the top of the World Cup brand recognition. Indeed a follow up survey from The Nielsen Company (from June 11th-25th) points out that in the first two weeks of the tournament adidas overtook Nike as the top brand. “Adidas buzz accounted for 25.1% share of World Cup buzz online compared to 14.4% before the event. Nike, meanwhile, dropped from 30.2% to 19.4%.”

Ironically, the Jabulani controverse strongly contributed to this recovering.  The first week of the World Cup, 8% of all english World Cup related messages were about the matchball. This said, adidas sponsored 12 Federations in South Africa,  is the official matchball supplier, launched a very well received UMU campaign about unity and diversity, benefits from ad boards exposure, and sponsors  world class players Lionel Messi, Villa and Robben to name a few. Those elements did play a key role.

Pepsi also did some great efforts to associate its brand to the World Cup. The Pepsi ad launched before World Cup starring Henry, Messi, Kaka, Lampard and Drogba was a big success. However, the official World Cup beverage brand, Coca-Cola received more football apraisal than its competitor. Not only Coca-Cola did launch a cool ad celebrating……football celebrations, but Coke also executed a fantastic World Cup  Trophy Tour worldwide.

The survey also emphasised on the fact that other official sponsors managed, with smart marketing activations, to link their brand and image to the FIFA World Cup. Hyundai/Kia for instance (from 2.4% to 4.7%) and McDonald’s (2.8% to 4.2%).  The overall share of buzz for the 10 official World Cup partners/sponsors increased from 52% to 66% since the start of the tournament.

(Sponsors vs. Competitors)
Rank Brand Type % Share of Official and Competitor Buzz*
1 adidas FIFA Partner 25.1%
2 Nike Non-affiliated Competitor 19.4%
3 Coca-Cola FIFA Partner 11.0%
4 Sony FIFA Partner 9.8%
5 Budweiser FIFA Partner 4.9%
6 Hyundai/Kia FIFA Partner 4.7%
7 Visa FIFA World Cup™ Sponsor 4.7%
8 McDonald’s FIFA World Cup™ Sponsor 4.2%
9 Pepsi Non-affiliated Competitor 2.8%
10 Carlsberg Non-affiliated Competitor 2.4%
Source: NM Incite, A Nielsen McKinsey Company*Share of online buzz across the 10 sponsors/partners with a global footprint and two of their major competitors in English language messages related to the World Cup from 11th -25th June 2010

Bottom line is that sponsorship is vital for big sporting events. However, being a sponsor of the FIFA  World Cup or the Olympics is NOT a guarantee for marketing success and significant return on investment. I would even say that creativity, inovation and smartness must be a priority for sponsors, as it is proven that their competitors are not asleep!

Karl Lusbec

** Although Umbro belongs to the Nike Group, I do not count the Umbro brand within the Nike ones.

* The NM Incite follow-up study compared the share of online buzz between World Cup sponsors and their major competitors in relation to the World Cup in the run up to the event (month-long period ending June 6th) and during the first two weeks of the tournament (11th -25th June). English language World Cup-related messages on blogs, message boards, groups, video and image sites – including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – were monitored for the study.


19 thoughts on “World Cup Sponsors Get their Appraisal

  1. Karl, interesting piece. I wonder what are your views – and others on this thread – on the reported cutting out of local traders to give FIFA sponsors a free-kick in marketing terms. I have heard for instance that small traders were excluded from some areas to ensure monopolies for the big multi-national brands.
    Seems this potentially undermines a significant positive of the WC in that it can give local economies a boost.


  2. Hello James, and thanks for your comment.
    When a big football event takes place (World Cup or Champions League), an exclusive zone is setup around the stadium in order to allow FIFA sponsors or partners to have an exclusive perimeter to display their products and marketing activities.
    Sponsors invest millions of $ in order to make the event happen, and in my opinion, it is fair that they are able to have an exclusive and direct impact on consumers around the stadium.

    Welcome here James!


  3. I concur with Karls thoughts on the exclusion zones. Any attempt to dilute this for the sake of small local traders would open the door to abuse by larger competitors. In previous high profile events non sponsors have approached home owners asking to anchor inflatables in their gardens or construct billboards on the side of their homes.


  4. Hello Frankie,
    Thanks for your comment and warm welcome. I fully agree with your input. The exclusive zone is a right event owners must deliver to their sponsors.

    It’s actually a good article topic I will write about very soon. 🙂


  5. I think there was a lot dilution of the apparel brands.

    Nike, Adidas and Puma were sponsoring so many different teams that there was no real distinction, at least for me, between the shoes and uniforms that each team were wearing.


  6. Hello Alex,
    Some designs were based on a template, for example Ivory Coast home and Cameroon away. However, I find the manufacturers were quite creative with their kits in General. Check out the World Cup 2010 Football Kits articles on the Football Lounge, I tried to point out this fact.

    When it comes to shoes, I don’t really agree with you. The Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly II was very recognisable with its metallic purple and orange shade. Same for the bright yellow F50 adiZero.

    I might be too used to spot them, but I found we could spot players’ shoes easily.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Alex!


  7. Karl
    Your points made in the blog are very consistent with information I have gathered post World Cup 2010 finale. Being a female business owner and fan of the game my business partner and I tried unsuccessfully 16 months prior to the games to pitch creative concepts and ideas integrating mobile into branding and marketing opps.

    Mobile truly presents a wonderful opporunity to be creative as well as monitor the success and/or failure of a marketing campaign. Over 70% of those watching and attending the games had a cellphone in their possession..

    Engaging WC fans through the use of the cell phone in my eyes is a no brainer.. I think some brands touched on it however, much more could have been done. I guarantee the evolution of mobile has only just begun.. Brands who dont figure this out and make the most of it will fall to their competitors fast..Thanks for sharing an insightful blog.


  8. Hello Roz and Welcome!

    Thanks a lot for the compliment on the blog and on its content.
    Mobile marketing is in constant increase and football offers a tremendous platform to launch and activate marketing campaigns. As you pointed out, it is also a fantastic tool to engage with the fans.

    More and more brands are giving the priority to mobile marketing as they do acknowledge its potential.

    Sony for instance (a FIFA partner) has launched the PSP live streaming at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

    It’s a feature that will come very soon (if not available already) on mobile phones.

    Thanks for your comments Roz and stay tuned!


  9. I agree that the Nike “Write the future” created a lot of buzz. It showed a footballer’s fame as short-lived, and having non-football consequences like baby naming, workout videos, Hollywood red-carpet treatment, and a movie on your life.

    Any still from that ad made for interesting blog posts for people who hadn’t seen the complete ad. I’m sure some fans who saw pics of “Roo-in” “Homer Simpson” “Ronaldo the movie” and the “Ronaldinho samba dvd” searched for the ad on Youtube.

    Still, it didn’t include players from the “big” teams who were the main World Cup favorites, Spain (Euro2008), Germany, and Argentina (Messi).

    Every time the Jabulani football was negatively criticized by the footballers during the 2010World Cup, it didn’t help the Adidas buzz one bit! Wonder if that was reflected on Jabulani sales.

    Great post thanks for sharing that survey.


  10. Hello Monica and thanks for your comment,

    The “Write the Future” didn’t feature Messi because he is sponsored by adidas. Spain is not in the ad either because it is an adidas team.

    However, Nike players in the ad such as Ribery, Drogba or Cannavaro are respectively playing for France (adidas), Cameroon (Puma) and Italy (Puma). If you look at the ad very closely, there are obviously no branding of Nike’s competitors, although the jersey they wear are similar (only the colour, not the design) to the official one.

    As for the Jabulani, sales are reported to be approx 13 million balls. The Teamgeist (2006 World Cup ball) sold approx 10 million units & the Fevernova (2002 World Cup ball) 6 million: any attention is good attention.

    Stay tuned and thanks for the compliment!


    1. I meant that Nike was able to create the buzz without including the r e a l favorites -like you said, that happen to be sponsored by Adidas.

      Nike had to put it’s “biggest” athletes in the ad apparently it’s Cristiano Ronaldo at that moment.

      I wonder why the ad didn’t include Wesley Scneijder (Nike athlete). He had a better world cup performance than the ones in the ad. Who expected Scneijder to score more goals than CR7?


  11. Hello Monica,
    Sorry I misunderstood you.

    It’s always delicate and hard to pick players for an advert that will be launched 2-4 months later. The player might be injured or simply not being picked for the World Cup. This is exactly what happen with Ronaldinho and Walcott.
    I think everybody was surprised when Dunga & Capello released their players lists.

    My point is that in that case Nike picked its most famous stars in order to
    1. Maximise the chances that they are at World Cup
    2. Benefit from a maximum exposure.

    Sneijder is a great player but a choice has to be made, and Nike used in the ad their most prominent athletes.


    1. True! This world cup was full of surprises. From players dropped to players that flopped (CR7 to be exact) .

      Almost the same situation happened with Mexico’s #1 goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa . Ochoa filmed a Gatorade ad because it was assumed he would be #1 in the world cup. Not to mention two unique ads for Allstate that were also aired on ESPN TV during the World Cup. To every journalist’s surprise, coach Javier Aguire picked a veteran, el ‘conejo’ Perez over Ochoa and left Ochoa on the bench.

      This supports your point that filming an ad a few weeks before the tournament is tough.


  12. Absolutely, there were a bunch of surprises. It is somehow a great thing as new talents can come forward and be in the spotlight (Gyan, for example).

    Picking players for any ads before an event is a risk, which can pay off or flop greatly. If England had won the World Cup with an extraordinary goal of Rooney, it would have been a fantastic PR/Marketing story for Nike. I have to say that the first time I watched the ad, I was expecting Iniesta to show up….


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