SBJ/Sept. 20-26, 2010/Opinion

FIFA, Coca-Cola build excitement with World Cup trophy tour

Fan experience
The Coca-Cola and FIFA brands take center stage in Red Square.
Before Spain celebrated its first FIFA World Cup championship in July, nearly 1 million fans had already gotten closer to soccer’s most prized possession than most of the players who competed.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola was one of the largest and most ambitious experiential marketing campaigns ever mounted, bringing the trophy to 94 cities in 84 countries across five continents over 225 days. The tour, managed by experiential marketing company Ignition (Editor’s note: where Dao is vice president of special projects), was a monumental celebration complete with music, dancing and cause marketing tie-ins all designed to create a global celebration.
The experience was a high-energy manifestation of Coca-Cola’s “What’s Your Celebration?” theme. This global marketing campaign was inspired by the goal celebrations seen in soccer and invited fans to express their own passion and excitement for the FIFA World Cup.
Qualitative research studies in select trophy tour markets showed upward of 79 percent of consumers reported an increase in excitement for the FIFA World Cup. Most markets visited also showed an increase in overall sales of Coca-Cola products compared with the same period last year.
While these points of measurement are important, it is impossible to quantify the value of a campaign that had people dancing in the streets. Sports has a unique, emotional, unifying effect. Creating an experience that allowed people to realize a sports fantasy tapped into the joy and passion people have for the FIFA World Cup and for Coca-Cola.
The campaign, though unique in scale, used several strategies to create brand experiences with authentic, personal and lasting meaning that are relevant to campaigns of all sizes.

The game plan

As campaign manager, Ignition worked with Coca-Cola and its partner FIFA to ensure the execution met their brand and campaign vision at every step. The goals were clear: grow brand love, drive sales, enhance the credible association between the Coca-Cola brand and FIFA World Cup, and bring the trophy to as many fans around the world as possible.
Planning began in the fall of 2008. The planning team conducted regional road shows to share the plan after it was set and help each local Coca-Cola partner develop local activations to engage and excite members of their communities.
Partners in Thailand put in place a very strong promotional program, giving media special access to the tour in order to reach consumers. Special attention was also paid to engage event employees and build the same level of excitement shared by attendees. In Moscow, the campaign made history as it was the first time a brand was allowed on Red Square. The combination of a strong central group (to plan, create materials and ensure consistent messages) and an expert and diverse network of local-market teams (who know their communities better than anyone) made the tour a success. The approach was to empower local markets to build buzz to seed pre-tour excitement, rev up the interest in the experience and capitalize on good will even after the big celebration.

Staying flexible on the field

The best teams excel by preparing effectively and adapting to what comes at them on the field. The same goes for managing events and campaigns. The ideal way to address challenges is by identifying and preparing for them in advance, but often, that’s not enough. Creativity and flexibility are also essential.
Transportation was one of the biggest hurdles facing the tour out of the gate. There were few direct flights, and the luggage didn’t exactly fit in an overhead bin. Essential pieces of the experience included a specially designed 3-D movie, a 4-by-8-meter projection screen and newly developed photo-imaging equipment that allowed consumers to instantly take home pictures taken with the trophy. A chartered plane and close cooperation with local airport officials in advance helped to avoid any travel interruptions.
Unforeseen obstacles such as political instability, natural disasters, and the security risks of carrying around a priceless asset like the FIFA World Cup trophy required organizers to have contingency plans for every conceivable issue along with a tour schedule with built-in flexibility to prevent the tour from getting derailed. The tour was forced to leave Kazakhstan a day early due to the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland’s Mount Eyjafjallajokull making its way into Middle Eastern airspace. Also, due to overwhelming excitement, several stops saw attendance higher than expected. Not wanting to provide a bad brand experience, the tour was able to accommodate and involve all who arrived.

Giving back

Too often, mobile tours blow through a city with no consideration of the impact they have on a community. Aligning your campaign with a relevant cause not only helps build brand loyalty, but most importantly, it leaves a legacy with the local community.
To ensure a positive legacy, Ignition worked with Coca-Cola to incorporate support of a cause: building awareness to bring clean drinking water to people in need through a program called Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN). Local clean water projects were highlighted in each market through VIP events and press conferences. While the primary focus was building awareness, some stops even sold merchandise, donating all proceeds to RAIN water projects.
Sports marketers are fortunate to have a built-in audience of fans. With the trophy tour, Coca-Cola gave fans an experience you can’t put a price tag on: the opportunity to see the FIFA World Cup Trophy up close — a luxury typically reserved for FIFA World Cup winners.
Focusing on the human element is critical to creating immediate and long-term benefits for any event or campaign. Engaging in meaningful ways with local communities, playing “good defense” and giving back along the way can help make any event or campaign a success.
Because ultimately, brands don’t just want “consumers.” They want fans.

Daniel Dao (daniel.dao@ignition-inc.com) is vice president of special projects for Ignition and managed the campaign logistics of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, presented by Coca-Cola.
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