Brands building on the World Cup

Jun 22, 2018

With the FIFA World Cup now in full swing, GDR’s John O’Sullivan explores how brands are using the opportunity to have some fun, promote serious issues and drive sales


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks you’ll know that the 2018 FIFA World Cup is now underway in Russia. Broadcast live to every single country in the world, the tournament, which takes place every four years, traditionally inspires a bonanza of big budget adverts and branded campaigns.

Antipathy towards the sport’s governing body, FIFA, and the tournament hosts, Russia, has led to a slightly more low-key uptake from brands this year, though. At the start of the tournament only 20 of the 34 key commercial sponsorship positions had been filled and an article in UK newspaper The Independent claimed that: “The World Cup has become such a toxic brand that Western companies are choosing not to advertise with it.”

Despite this, we’ve still seen some interesting innovations from brands looking to have fun, promote important social issues or drive sales.


Promoting a cause

The most interesting human story off the field this week has surrounded female Iranian football fans. In Iran it is illegal for women to enter sports stadiums so, for the third tournament in a row, they travelled in great numbers to support their team and promote their plight to the world. The condemnation of the world led to a historic event on Wednesday when, for the first time in 37 years, women were invited into the Azadi Stadium in Tehran to watch a screening of their national team playing Spain.

While there is clearly much work to be done here, this is illustrative of the power of events like the World Cup to produce positive societal change, which is something several brands have latched on to.


Carabao and This Fan Girl 

Thai energy drink and regular football sponsors Carabao, for example, has started supporting a campaign that promotes equality.

This Fan Girl was set up to challenge the “over-sexualised and unrepresentative” imagery of female football fans in the media. To combat this it travels throughout the UK taking pictures of “real” female fans to provide an antidote to the cliched imagery all-too-often seen on TV and in the media. Ahead of the World Cup This Fan Girl and Carabao visited England’s game against Nigeria to create a selection of portraits of female England fans. They also launched #WeAreFemaleFans, aiming to get more representative images of female football fans to the top of the search engine image results.



Paddy Power From Russia with Love

Bringing its irreverent humour to the tournament, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has used the World Cup as an opportunity to take swipe at Russia’s stance on gay rights. It is donating £10,000 to LGBT causes every time Russia scores so that the host country is inadvertently supporting LGBT issues.

Despite low expectations pre-tournament, the hosts have scored eight goals in their opening two games, and Paddy Power has donated £80,000 in Russia’s name to date.



Spotify ¡Viva Latino!

Spotify has used the World Cup as a vehicle to promote multiculturalism, through a video project that celebrates the intersections of music, culture and football. Throughout the month of June US Spotify users can watch ¡Viva Latino! to learn more about the cultures of Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

“The idea for the series came naturally to us because music and soccer are deeply rooted in Latin culture,” said Rocío Guerrero Colomo, head of global cultures at Spotify. “Our mission at Spotify is to connect fans with artists and celebrate what they are most passionate about.”

“The future we envision is to be a platform that connects fans with artists beyond cultural boundaries, where fans can discover new music and connect to people across the world.”



Fun brand building

Most brands are using the World Cup as the backdrop to having a bit of fun with their audience.


The Bud Boat

World Cup sponsor Budweiser has taken to the water to extend its reach from Russia to London. It has launched a branded boat that will travel up and down the River Thames throughout the tournament. Passengers can watch all of the games on big screens while, of course, drinking Bud.


Norrlands Guld

Swedish beer brand Norrlands Guld wanted to encourage football fans to enjoy the World Cup IRL, rather than having their heads buried in Twitter. It worked with Akestam Holst to create a printer that uses malt-based ink to print a World Cup related tweet on top of pints of its beer. An algorithm is used to scan Twitter for the most relevant recent tweets, which are printed within seconds of appearing on the social media platform. The machines are available at select bars around Sweden.


Betfair Famous 5-a-side

Matt Alexander/ PA Wire

To create a football-related buzz ahead of the World Cup, online betting platform Betfair pranked an amateur five-a-side in London. A viral video shows the team easily beating their opponents before a stream of substitutes brought World Cup legends Rivaldo, Michael Ballack, Michel Salgado and Rio Ferdinand to the field. The astonished players are then soundly beaten by their illustrious opponents.


Currys PC World Go Big

Consumer electronics brand Currys PC World produced a brilliant piece of OOH advertising to promote that its big screen TVs are perfect for watching the World Cup. The campaign, created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Clear Channel, includes a huge cardboard box in place of the advertising billboard with the message: “Go Big For Big Games.”



Nudging towards purchase

A number of different brands in England are tapping into the dramatic sense of anticipation amongst fans to nudge them to buy now and to up-sell those already looking to buy.


Deliveroo £1 Goal Giveaway

Deliveroo offered £1 back for every goal scored in England’s opening game against Tunisia to anyone buying a meal between noon and 7pm on the day of the game. This was a great way to convert undecided customers while playing with fans’ positive expectations of a big England win.


Currys PC World Get Your TV For Free

Identifying that many fans buy a new TV ahead of the World Cup, Curry’s PC World uses a clever gamified sales mechanism to encourage consumers to shop with them. Mirroring a tactic previous used by Media Markt, the retailer offered one in 20 customers buying 55 inch TVs or bigger their money back post-purchase. Customers had to enter a draw to be eligible. This was a clever way for the retailer to nudge customers into buying a bigger TV. England offer

Finally, online retailer launched an offer pre-tournament that is linked to the success of the England team. Customers buying a new TV will receive £300 cashback, if England reach the last 16 knockout stage.

This is a great way for the retailer to make customers visualise happy moments with their new TVs pre-purchase, tapping into nostalgic memories and feelings of optimism.

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