Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 1
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Sponsors plan biggest World Cup marketing efforts in U.S. ever for Brazil 2014

In anticipation of record U.S. interest in the World Cup, sponsors are planning their largest domestic marketing efforts ever for the global soccer tournament.

Coca-Cola said its program in the U.S. will be comparable to what it does for the Summer Olympics; McDonald’s will take 25 children to a World Cup for the first time; Visa will have 40 percent more banking partners tap into its World Cup assets; and Adidas is projecting a 30 percent increase in World Cup-related apparel and soccer sales.

“The growth potential in the U.S. is massive,” said Ernesto Bruce, the head of soccer for Adidas North America. “We are in discussions with our media partners, and the growth [in viewership] is projected to be huge.”

The 2014 World Cup, which begins in Brazil this June, will be the first played in the same time zone as the U.S. since the 1994 World Cup. (Most of Brazil is one hour ahead of Eastern time.) The favorable time zone, combined with an increase in interest in global soccer over the last four years, has sponsors and ESPN anticipating record interest and viewership of the World Cup in the U.S.

The 2010 World Cup delivered record viewership for ESPN as games across ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC averaged 3.26 million viewers, a 41 percent increase from 2006.

Most World Cup sponsors won’t release their marketing plans outside Brazil until April or May, but several sponsorship executives said spending on World Cup marketing in the U.S. will be up considerably from years past.

“We have huge ambition, and we’re activating this FIFA World Cup as big as we do Summer Olympics in the U.S.,” said Emmanuel Seuge, Coca-Cola’s vice president, global alliances and ventures.

Coca-Cola will reveal its World Cup marketing plans in the U.S. in about a month. Seuge said that Coke’s marketing will include everything from packaging and retail marketing to digital media. “In 2010, we were still activating the event in pockets of the U.S. where we know [soccer] and the passion of [soccer] was stronger,” Seuge said. “This year we’re doing it nationwide without exception.”

McDonald’s sponsorship of FIFA allows it to provide the player escorts for each World Cup game. It holds a global contest and selects more than 1,400 children worldwide for the program. For the first time, it will take 25 children from the U.S. to a World Cup. It will complement that with a national marketing program around the World Cup.

“We’ve ramped up tenfold, easily, for this World Cup [from past years],” said John Lewicki, McDonald’s head of global alliances.

Visa is sponsoring its second World Cup this year. The company’s sponsorship of FIFA allows it to share its promotional rights to the World Cup with banks that partner on Visa cards. Ricardo Fort, Visa senior vice president of global sponsorship marketing, said the number of U.S. banks with World Cup-related promotions has increased 40 percent from 2010.

Budweiser is one of the only FIFA sponsors to announce its marketing and promotion plans in the U.S. The company hired two Emmy-winning directors to make six 30-minute documentaries for Fox Sports 1 about soccer’s ability to be more than a game and help with everything from overcoming racism in France to prompting a temporary cease-fire during World War I.