For soccer fans around the world, whether new to the game or devoted enthusiasts, this past Sunday marked the end of the most anticipated global event second to the Olympics. The quadrennial World Cup, hosted this year by South Africa, contained an abundance of firsts; most apparent was its setting on African soil for the first time. Almost more noticeable, however unfortunate, were the attributes of old (at least for me).
FIFA, the governing body of the World Cup, is an organization that holds an immense amount of power in the sport. Similar to the IOC in regards to the Olympics, FIFA represents the primary planner and representative of the Cup. It has exclusive rights over what corporations can (or cannot) do during the month of their biggest tournament. FIFA’s governance has remained surprisingly consistent since its inception in 1930, especially considering how much today’s consumer market and audience has changed. Like the June 25th blog post published below notes, the 2010 World Cup is one of the first major sporting events since the boom of social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others seem to be taking precedence over more traditional avenues in order to reach consumers. Nonetheless, FIFA’s regulations and bylaws have not changed to accommodate these new outlets.
- FIFA is the owner of all rights – like media, marketing, licensing, ticketing, etc. – of the 2010 World Cup. As a privately funded event, FIFA dictates that only handpicked partners have the capability of direct affiliation to the tournament due to significant financial contributions made by the selected parties. Varying degrees of promotional packages will be given to a small number of corporations.
- FIFA holds their selection in incredibly high esteem and priority. Only the selected partners, sponsors, and national supporters have recognized campaigns. There are restrictive buffer zones around stadiums and fan zones disallowing outside companies access and affiliation. These regulations are set in place by the FIFA Rights Protection Programme.
What this year’s World Cup has shown, however, is that ‘outsider’ corporations have successfully branded themselves alongside the event without overstepping boundary lines. Social media has allowed for a more bottom up approach to consumerism with fans keeping track of the tournament through notifications on Facebook and Twitter, and commercials and videos on YouTube. Thus, being an official partner or affiliate of FIFA is no longer a necessity. Yes, those corporations get special attention, but that attention is no longer the most encompassing or accessible channel to reach consumers. As our own Pat Griffin discussed with Karen Rubin and Mike Volpe in a recent episode of HubSpot TV, outsiders like Nike and Pepsi held their own against FIFA partner’s Adidas and Coca-Cola respectively. If corporations realize that they can reach their audience without being an official partner, and save loads of money in the process, FIFA will lack the necessary funding for the privately held Cup.
The question now is a difficult one for FIFA, and other organizers like the IOC included. Finding a way to garner loyalty from affiliates must progress. The leadership provided by FIFA has become somewhat stagnant to a point of being outdated. Evidence of other companies taking advantage of loopholes or other strategies to garner attention for their brands is illustrative of this. Proof that this is no new phenomenon can be taken from the last World Cup held in Germany. Puma, an ‘unofficial sponsor,’ welcomed the attention it received for its sponsorship of the Cameroon team. With tactical placement of the recognizable leaping cat logo, Puma’s sponsorship of 12 countries in 2010 – more than any other team and twice the number of official partner, Adidas – will most likely stimulate its brand, for a portion of the price. FIFA’s penalty for Bavaria (June 25th blog post) gave that company more recognition by calling more attention to the ambush marketing ploy, rather than quickly sweeping it under the rug.
As the saying goes, fight fire with fire – embrace social media or whatever new advancements are available, and above all, know your consumers and where your consumers are congregating. Because in the long run, you don’t have to play by FIFA’s rules or even penetrate the walls of FIFA’s stadiums to reach your target audience. For its own future and particularly for the sake of the World Cup, FIFA must recognize the new environment in which it exists. Whatever you think of the sport, it is a game of strategy and collaboration. It’s about time FIFA followed suit.
Which brands do you think were most recognizable during the World Cup?