The 2014 Football Marketing Milestones

Hi everyone,brazil 2014
I hope you kicked off the New Year in great health and spirits. 2014 was an extremely rich football marketing year with great initiatives from brands, clubs, sponsors and licensees. Let’s have a look at the major ones.

FIFA has been a never ending trending topic in 2014, often not for positive reasons. The run for presidency will for sure bring scrutiny in 2015 especially with Jerome Champagne candidacy. The Frenchman is taking on Sepp Blatter who has been reigning on world football since 1998.  

On a sponsorship perspective, some of the World Cup sponsors extended their partnerships others didn’t. VISA announced in January the extension of their partnership with FIFA. This extension secures VISA’s global marketing rights and product category exclusivity for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

On the other hand, Sony, Emirates pulled the plug and opted out for various reasons. Can a revolution happen?

World Cup was obviously the main focus of the year that outlined fantastic brand activations from Nike and adidas marketing victory. The three stripes launched the World Cup Brazuca ball that hit the 1 million followers mark on Twitter. Adidas continued the World Cup final matchball tradition with a brand new Brazuca ball for the final.
Also, the arrival of the Free Kick spray must be noted, proving that the best innovations are the simplest ones.

Nike, despite not being an official World Cup sponsor launched engaging and meaningful marketing activations online and offline. It triggered questions as to whether or not it was worth to be an official FIFA sponsor or partner.

FIFA sponsors were walking on thin ice during the event when bribery allegations over the World Cup 2018 & 2022 surfaced. VISA and Coca-Cola raised concerns and asked for more transparency from FIFA.

The Ballon d’Or was also a trending topic where (some) players were ‘campaigning’ and lobbying on and off the pitch. CR7 won the prestigious trophy and despite not having the marketing rights to use the Ballon d’Or marks, it was not a big deal for Nike. The swoosh that celebrated 20 years of brilliant football honoured its hero in class with the release of the ‘Unfinished’ video less than one hour after Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the trophy.

The Bundesliga continued to be the most financially sustainable league in the world. The Bundesliga recorded a €2.17 billion in revenue and €383.5 million in operative profits. A striking example of finance management some leagues ought to follow.

A healthy league whose wealthiest club opened offices in New York City. Bayern Munich took a major step in developing its global brand and having a presence in the US.

On a social media standpoint, Manchester United and Google+ launched a meaningful fan experience. The Red Devils offered a select group of international fans the opportunity to participate in the first ever Google+ Hangout on the pitch-side boards at Old Trafford.

FC Barcelona took leadership in social media by becoming the first sports club to reach 100 million followers on social networks. A consolidation of the Catalan strong positioning in the digital world.

Players have also been busy off the pitch. Messi and Gillette launched a partnership, Beckham became a proud owner of an MLS franchise and Cristiano Ronaldo launched the largest 5v5 competition called ‘The Game by Ronaldo’. Castrol featured Neymar in a global campaign while Didier Drogba partnered with HOM for underwear and swimwear collection.

Mario Balotelli signed a new deal with Puma and Thierry Henry retired from football and joined Sky Sports as a commentator.

The racism plague has unfortunately not been eradicated from football. After Dani Alves was thrown a banana at in a La Liga game against Villareal, players tackled racism head on with the #weareallmonkeys ‘campaign’. A picture of themselves taken eating a banana. This initiative was relayed by normal citizens, politicians, coaches. A little less campaign, a little more action.

Furthermore, the Brazilian FA took drastic measures by stripping points from a Brazilian club because of fans racially abused a referee.
However, racism took a step back with newly appointed Italy FA President Tavecchio racist comments and got a 6 months bans by UEFA. When there is a will…

I got a grin on my face when AS Monaco signed a deal with Nike, something I had anticipated. But, the most impressive club deal this year was Manchester United partnership with adidas for £750 million a year after Nike exited the negotiations with the Red Devils.

Puma and Arsenal also inked a lucrative deal of £30 million a year over 5 years. Puma went deeper in their partnership with Borussia Dortmund by having Puma CEO sitting on Borussia Dortmund board of directors.

Another impressive achievement is Real Madrid that remained the most valuable team and most globally impactful brand in 2014 according to Forbes.

The adidas Nike feud is on more than ever. Nike is suing 3 designers who quit the swoosh to join adidas for supposedly stealing and disclosing confidential information to their new employer.

A very rich football marketing year as you can tell! I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to what 2015 will bring.

Karl Lusbec