Scoring a World Cup own goal

The Fifa World Cup kicking off on 11 June in South Africa offers incredible promotional opportunities to brands of all shapes and sizes. In doing so, it brings out the very best and very worst in marketers.

The advertising is kicking in and the level of World Cup / football related email is increasing in volume. But recent research by atmAd suggests that a significant group of consumers within the target demographic will only respond to campaigns from main sponsors. These valuable consumers, will they say, fundamentally mistrust guerilla attempts from other brand marketers.

Why? It’s to do with relationship and permission. The 13 main tournament sponsors pay millions for exclusive access to the tournament and the ability to promote their wares as an official sponsor. In some cases these relationships have been built by brands like Coca Cola and Mastercard over the last 3-4 tournaments and a 16 year period.

Some brands like Nationwide and Pepsi claim a justifiable indirect relationship through their tie-ups with related and aligned parties such as being official suppliers to the England team or The FA or by running campaigns involving particular footballing personalities.

What is obvious is the World Cup is a clear consumption occasion opportunity. Snack, food and beverage, barbeque, televisions and furniture brands will all position around watching the match as a social occasion.

But how does this translate to b2b? I’m not convinced it does. Even the most creative business marketers will be hard pressed to justify exploitation of the event – but it won’t stop them trying.

But be warned. Official and indirect sponsors take a dim view of attempts to sabotage their official relationships. And they, and Fifa, could come down hard legally on businesses that try to do so. Critically from a marketing perspective, a lazy campaign leave customers and prospects feeling you’re a lazy company.

Taking advantage of the World Cup in your marketing is a high risk strategy. Before cashing in on a tenuous association, consider how that one email, mailer or advert could damage your reputation and the years of investment you have already made.