SBJ/July 11 - 17, 2005/SBJ In Depth

World Cup sponsors set game plan

Yahoo! provides the official Web site for the World Cup, and is rolling out several new interactive features designed to build a lasting relationship with fans of the event.
With less than a year to go before the kickoff of FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany, sponsors have begun to roll out the promotions, ticket sweepstakes and advertising programs that they believe will justify and leverage massive investments of $100 million or more to associate themselves with the event.

To become official partners of Germany 2006, corporations including Adidas, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and MasterCard paid an estimated $40 million to $50 million, and marketing experts routinely recommend a matching amount to support activation programs.

A huge investment to be sure, but the World Cup delivers value like no other event on the globe in terms of the passion and size of its audience. With 64 matches from June 9 to July 9, 2006, at 12 venues in Germany, worldwide cumulative television viewership is expected to surpass an astounding 30 billion after reaching 28.2 billion cumulative viewers in 2002, according to Soccer United Marketing, which holds the English-language broadcasting rights to the World Cup in the United States.

“In my opinion, it is the biggest sports event in the world,” said Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch.

Sponsorships have been sold out since 2003, and the 15 official partners also include Avaya, Continental, Deutsche Telekom, Emirates Airline, Fujifilm, Gillette, Hyundai, Philips, Toshiba and Yahoo!

Official partners certainly aren’t the only ones with their eyes on Germany 2006 as a valuable marketing opportunity. If history serves as a guide, opportunistic and aggressive companies — with Nike at the top of the list — will launch their own programs by purchasing commercial airtime around the games and highlighting their affiliations with players and teams.

“You have 15 main sponsors, 200 licensees, 32 teams, FIFA, broadcasters, media and players — all of those are trading noise, through which you’ve got to provide a point of differentiation to project your communication objectives,” said Phil Carling, senior vice president of Octagon Football in the United Kingdom, which advises MasterCard and others.

Plans under way

In terms of generating attention and excitement for its sponsorship of World Cup, most official partners favor some type of experiential approach that allows fans to take part in — or enter for the chance to take part in — a World Cup event.

2006 FIFA World Cup official sponsors
Company Product category Partner since*
Adidas Partner 1998
Avaya Official convergence communication provider 2002
Budweiser (a) Official beer sponsor 1986
Coca-Cola Non-alcoholic beverages partner 1974
Continental AG Partner 2006
Deutsche Telekom Partner 2006
Emirates Airline Partner 2006
Fujifilm Official imaging sponsor 1982
Gillette Partner 1970
Hyundai Partner 2002
MasterCard (b) Payments system 1990
McDonald’s Official restaurant 1994
Philips Domestic appliances/lighting products 1986
Toshiba Official IT partner 2002
Yahoo! Web site services provider 2002
* Indicates first World Cup of sponsorship, not necessarily the year relationship with FIFA began.
(a) Budweiser was not a sponsor for the 1994 World Cup.
(b) MasterCard was the official card and official product licensee of the 1990 World Cup and became an official sponsor in 1994.
Source: FIFA World Cup
Perhaps no company has more at stake than Adidas-Salomon, with its headquarters in Germany and its roots in soccer. The company recently held a news conference called “World Cup Day” simply to announce its readiness for 2006. The Financial Times reported that Adidas has 100 employees dedicated solely to World Cup preparation. Adidas expects soccer sales to increase to more than $1.2 billion in 2006 from a reported $1.07 billion in 2004. Its first World Cup-related products are expected in the second half of 2005.

Adidas spokesman Thomas Schaikvan said the company will leverage established partnerships with teams including host Germany and Olympic champion Argentina, and top players such as England’s David Beckham and German captain Michael Ballack. Fans will get the opportunity to take part in grassroots events with opportunities to play the game and enter online or retail sweepstakes to become ball boys or flag bearers. During the games, Schaikvan said, “Tens of thousands of people” will wear Adidas shoes and clothing.

“We will be very present,” Schaikvan said. “It is all about passion and sharing the World Cup.”

Ponturo said Anheuser-Busch will leverage the event to deepen and enhance loyalty to its flagship Budweiser brand, of which 25 percent is sold outside the United States. Bud launched a World Cup “Trophy Tour” in the United States last month, with stops in Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston. At the events, fans had the opportunity to view and have their picture taken with the trophy, which will also make stops in China and the United Kingdom.

While Ponturo pointed to the trophy tour as a creative method to maximize the connection between the World Cup and Budweiser, he also emphasized the basics.

“You start with point-of-sale displays and glassware and all of the retail trade materials that you need to get into the marketplace, that’s a big part of it,” he said. “You also have to make sure that you run marketing programs that the consumer relates to. You can’t bring a U.S. mentality to Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina, China. You have to relate to their passions.”

The centerpiece of Gillette’s program will be its sponsorship of a new FIFA award set to debut in Germany 2006 — the Gillette Best Young Player award, given to the top performer under 21 in the tournament. Gillette spokesman Mike Norton said the award will be the only official FIFA award based on fan voting over the Internet.

Avaya, a provider of communications networks, presents an interesting case study as a World Cup sponsor. While most other sponsors sell directly to consumers, Avaya is a business-to-business provider with a target audience of technology decision makers. The company’s FIFA sponsorship dates back to a five-year agreement signed in 2001 shortly after the company spun off from Lucent Technologies.

“We were an empty vessel in terms of a brand,” said Neil Pattie, head of the FIFA World Cup program for Avaya. “The World Cup was a good sponsorship for us to develop the brand identity globally.”

In Germany, Avaya will provide a converged voice and data network for the tournament, which will enable the company to showcase its technology to prospective customers. The company’s main goal, Pattie said, is to drive awareness in key growth markets outside the United States with World Cup programs that will include hospitality, technical showcases, use of the Web, and sales incentives for Avaya business partners and sales staff.

Yahoo! provides the official Web site for the World Cup (www.fifaworldcup.yahoo.com) and intends to push its technical and editorial staff to the limit with new interactive features and information about all things World Cup.

“This is a natural for us,” said Jorge Consuegra, general manager of the Yahoo!/FIFA partnership. “The World Cup allows us to engage with users very, very deeply. Because users are so involved online, it creates an excellent targeted medium for our advertisers.”

The company’s “matchcast” will provide photos, a fan chat, analysis and audio when a goal happens, among other features.

Nearly every sponsor has a dedicated Web site for the World Cup, with German tire company Continental leading the way with an impressive and interactive site available in seven languages (www.contifanworld.com) that includes video games and World Cup history and statistics, as well as the opportunity to win tickets. The company said that 89,000 people have registered to play its online games since December 2003.

Coca-Cola’s sponsorship theme for Germany will be “It’s your Heimspiel (home game)! Make it Real.” The company employs 12,000 people in the host country.
Coca-Cola recently announced its World Cup sponsorship theme for Germany — “It’s your Heimspiel [home game]. Make it Real.” The soft drink leader, which employs 12,000 in the host country, will be carrying out themed promotions at 40,000 retail chain outlets between September and June 2006, along with special packaging for the World Cup. In Germany, Coca-Cola will offer fans the opportunity to win tickets by taking part in prize drawings in retail stores or via the Internet.

The primary emphasis of McDonald’s World Cup activation will center on a program called Player Escorts. The company will select more than 1,000 children from around the world to walk out on the field with their heroes, the members of the teams, at every World Cup match. Aside from the escort program, which will take place globally, activities will vary from traditional in-store promotions to online extensions to themed packaging to World Cup-themed “I’m lovin’ it” advertising.

While World Cup sponsorships are both expensive and exclusive, they are not guaranteed to deliver.

Philips Electronics, for example, recently announced that the 2006 World Cup would be its last as an official sponsor, citing the rising cost of sponsorship and the challenge of making such a heavy investment pay off.

U.S. interest in event

While fans in the United States have never exhibited a passion for soccer that resembles the religious fervor for the sport in other parts of the world, the American market remains fertile for effective World Cup programs, said Kathy Carter, executive vice president of SUM. The properties division of MLS, SUM represents the United States and Mexican national teams as well as English language TV rights for the World Cup.

Carter believes that the strength of the improving American team, which is ranked 10th in the world and reached the quarterfinals in 2002, will create a “boom” in World Cup activation programs in this country next summer. The Mexican team, ranked sixth, is also a heavy draw in the United States among Spanish speaking residents.

“Without a doubt, we’ll see the largest and greatest activation since the World Cup was here on American soil in 1994,” Carter said, citing Budweiser, Nike, Frito-Lay, Home Depot and Gatorade as companies that will be heard from. “This is an event that this country is starting to wake up to.”

ABC owns U.S. broadcast rights to the World Cup and will air 12 games on its flagship network and the remainder on ESPN and ESPN2. Unlike in 2002, when the games in Korea and Japan came on in the middle of the night or early morning, games from Germany will air at 9 a.m., noon or 3 p.m. Eastern time in the United States.

In the future, FIFA plans to make World Cup sponsorship even more exclusive and expensive. Only six official sponsorship categories (down from 15) will be open for the 2010 (South Africa) and 2014 (host to be selected) World Cups for $120 million each. Three have sold already — Sony Corp., Adidas and Hyundai.

Greg Abel is a writer in Baltimore.

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