World Cup 2018 – Ambush Marketing or Shrewd Placement?

The FIFA World Cup 2018 is coming to the tail end of this 4-year ritual. With the semis underway and the Final game coming on 15th July, this has been a World Cup of both pleasant and unpleasant surprises depending on which team or player you support. The same can be said of the marketing campaigns and brands associated with the prestigious event.

FIFA has an elaborate marketing division which over the years has sought to partner with major brands across the globe. This is to enable them reach the wider audiences as well as enrich existing ones. These partners also serve as sponsors of FIFA’s multiple events with the most prestigious being the World Cup. The multi-tier system has 3 layers – FIFA Partners, FIFA World Cup Sponsors and National Supporters. Among the Partners, the most recognisable is Coca-Cola who’ve managed to maintain a lead over all other partners with the Coca-Cola World Cup Trophy Tour. Adidas sportswear has also maintained a stronghold for on-the-pitch action being the Official Ball sponsors since 1970.

This year though some of the partners have had a mixed performance on their visibility and marketing communication. From our own analysis, the most visible to the least one comes as follows;

  1. Coca-Cola – with its various communications either targeting local/regional audiences and also for the global campaign. Having had a head start with the World Cup Trophy Tour, the brand has its strategy on-point and visible across all platforms – both online and offline. See it’s YouTube ad for Nigeria/West Africa here.
  2. adidas – being one of the other brand associated with the World Cup, the brand has both on-the-pitch advantage and off-the-pitch communication. Every tournament has a new ball designed for use for the tournament.
    adidas' Telstar 18 - Image courtesy of FIFA
    adidas’ Telstar 18 – Image courtesy of FIFA

    This year’s ball ‘Adidas Telstar 18‘ has a futuristic look and feel to enable viewers see the ball as they watched and also equipped with aerodynamics for playing pleasure. In some cases, it has a chip installed ‘to access content and information that is unique to that ball, personalized and localized, providing the consumer with interactivity‘. The digital campaign was equally impressive and incorporated not just footballing greats but other sporting heroes such as tennis champion Caroline Wozniacki; NBA star Damian Lillard; skateboarder Nora Vasconcellos as well as music producer extraordinaire Pharell Williams. Here’s a sneak peek.

  3.  Visa International – the brand had an interesting campaign for the pre-World Cup period where holders and users of Visa cards were eligible to win an all-expenses paid trip to Russia. However the marketing honchos went on a trajectory choosing Zlatan Ibrahimovich as the brand ambassador for this year’s campaign. While his country Sweden qualified for the event and even went as far as the quarters, it’s strange to choose a player who would not be present at the World Cup.  Others may point to the fact that bookings and payment at the event in Russia were made mainly using Visa, the campaigns gave a mixed bag of communication to its target audience. See the ad here – ‘Don’t Miss a Goal

In our local scene, Kenyan companies went creative with their campaigns most if not all looking to cash in on the World Cup communication. Here are some of the most interesting ones;

  1. Safaricom – with its mix of GIGA Football Pass and association with Kwese Sports and iflix, the telco got it spot-on with the campaign that almost makes it synonymous with the World Cup. This particular campaign has been consistent across all platforms – from online to offline, radio and TV ads. Good one!

    Kwese-iFlix streams - image courtesy of www.kwesesports.com
    Kwese-iFlix streams – image courtesy of www.kwesesports.com
  2. Uber – sprinkled around the city are strategically placed billboards prompting commuters the need to use the mobility app instead of driving their own vehicles. One interesting piece goes something like, ‘Make it Safely through the quarters, semis and final. Don’t drink and drive’. Simple, effective and concise.
  3. Sony – having been trumped by Chinese electronics maker Hisense for the 2018 World Cup, the Korean-based brand did its bit of seeking to attract consumers to purchase its brands. Armed with bold and elaborate images on their billboards as well as discounted offers, the brand still remains among top of mind TV brands for a big screen or any screen for that matter.

Critics may say that brands have taken advantage and ‘ambushed’ their target customers. Football brand critics may argue too that such major brands ought to pay up for the right to use some of the images or association with the World Cup – tough nut to crack. Whatever marketing communication and messaging that has been screened, broadcast or shared with audiences across the world, the World Cup has truly been memorable for us.