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What does it take to win the World Cup of Soccer — on and off the field of play? Do your sponsorship and marketing efforts have what it takes? Let’s find out.

On June 12, 2014, all eyes will be on Brazil as one of the World’s largest spectacles, the 2014 World Cup of Soccer kicks off. The world’s most widely viewed sporting event features thirty-two teams vying for the FIFA World Cup “Gold” Trophy. 3.2 billion people worldwide watched the 2010 World Cup – 46.6% of the world! The stage is set for a fierce, global competition with millions of dollars on the line for the winning team and players. But that’s just the start, with so many people following the competition, the stage is also set for a global showdown of advertising and sponsorship activations – winning this battle too is worth millions of dollars in sales, share of market and shareholder value. So, what does it take to win this global marketing battle?

As Brazil prepares to claim it’s sixth World Cup title (many hope), so too are some of the world’s largest marketers: Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Last week on April 2, 2014, Coca-Cola announced the launch of the brands largest ever campaign “The World’s Cup”, created specifically for the 2014 FIFA World Cup spectacle. The nucleus of this campaign emotionally connects the power of the game of soccer across hundreds of nations unifying people from these nations leading to “One World, One Game”. Wendy Clark, senior VP global sparkling brand commented “And we wanted our campaign to celebrate this message of inclusivity and togetherness. ” Weiden and Kennedy the agency that co-created the campaign featured a film inviting young people from across the globe to attend the 2014 FIFA World Cup (as an official FIFA World Cup sponsor, Coca-Cola has the unique opportunity to do this). In addition to the film feature, a series of documentary-style short films features unique groups of people passionate about soccer. The genesis of “The World’s Cup” campaign is based on insights from Coke’s core consumers – teenagers and young adults.

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After an exhaustive recruitment and research effort to find the people to be featured in the campaign, the campaign features images of many people with disabilities celebrating those who are often overlooked and truly inviting everyone to be part of “The World’s Cup”.

What is Coca-Cola doing to leverage and activate their 2014 FIFA World Cup sponsorship? Here’s what I see taking place:

#1: Coca-Cola is delivering a simple, clear, compelling message;

#2: Coca-Cola is with connecting with their core audience of teenagers and young people emotionally;

#3: Coca-Cola is taking an integrated, holistic approach to bring their efforts to life. The have integrated their marketing communications with a simple message at all touch points;

#4: Coca-Cola is communicating their core strategy “Happiness” through sport. “The World’s Cup: campaign is not a sponsorship or sport message, it’s Coke’s global marketing platform.;

#5: “The World’s Cup” is Innovative – Coca-Cola adds value to existing ideas and platforms such as the use of film and short documentaries to reach the younger audience via digital in a relevant manner. Coke also uses “experiential” marketing to bring the World Cup Trophy to nations across the globe;

#6: Coca-Cola is engaging their core audience through digital and social mediums such as twitter, YouTube, Facebook “The Happiness Flag”;

#7: Coca-Cola brings the FIFA 2014 World Cup experience to those who can’t attend the event;

#8: Coca-Cola has gathered best practices from recent Olympic experiences 2014 Sochi and 2012 London and 2010 World Cup and reapplies the key learnings to make their programs stronger, relevant to the core audience, creates differentiation vs. other beverage options and substantiates the Return on Investment with proven results at retail;

#9: Coca-Cola demonstrates executional effectiveness consistently across many markets in the short and long term;
Coca-Cola, is an official sponsor of the event, stating it is the largest marketing program in company history. Coca-Cola Global Dir of Football Marketing Arnab Roy said, “In 2010, the campaign was run across 160 countries. For the Brazil World Cup, we’re reaching more than 190 countries.”

#10: Build a strong, proactive PR program. Coca-Cola has learned from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and is prepared to deal with negative press and activists proactively. If unrest hits the World Cup event, Joe Tripodi Coca-Cola’s Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer commented “Coca-Cola has contingency plans in place to adapt its World Cup Sponsorship and soften it’s celebratory tone in Brazil.” “That (World Cup) spotlight can act as an opportunity to tell a story of happiness but it can also be a spotlight to tell a story of grievances and concerns (the public) have about the direction of the country”.

It appears that Coca-Cola has a well planned program rivalling that of P&G’s “Thank You Mom” Campaign and Visa’s “Go World”. But is that what it takes to win?

There is one more key action Coca-Cola needs to monitor – ambush marketing activities. Enter Pepsi. The same day Coca-Cola launched “The World’s Cup” global campaign, Pepsi launched it’s first ever Global Campaign called “Live for Now”. Similar to Coke, Pepsi “conducted extensive global research, connecting with thousands of fans, and “Live for Now” reflects the insight that Pepsi fans all around the world desire to capture the excitement of now – a mind-set that is aligned at the very core with brand’s DNA.”

“Live for Now” is designed to invite and inspire Pepsi fans to live each moment to the fullest. The campaign is brought to life through pop-culture platforms including music and entertainment, digital innovation, epic events and unique partnerships including several high profile soccer players.

Brad Jakeman, president, Global Enjoyment Brands, PepsiCo stated ” the ‘Live for Now’ campaign is considerably more than a positioning statement or a single ad creative – it is the central governing idea for the brand globally.”

Over the next few months, watch for Pepsi to create a series of exclusive partnerships to bring the “Live for Now” campaign to life featuring some of the world’s leading artists and entertainment properties. Pop up concerts, interactive digital platforms will operate in real time curating exclusive content for the Pepsi target audience. 

Pepsi has a long standing history with soccer and they are using the popularity and scale of the World Cup to bring awareness to this new “Live for Now” global campaign. Activities such as this are considered by many to be “ambush” marketing tactics. In Pepsi’s case, it’s a global platform using the popularity of soccer to bring the campaign to life.

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To round out their sponsorship activation platform, Coca-Cola also needs to think like an ambusher and prepare to defend their sponsorship investment in this manner.

Who will win? We’ll find out in mid-July!

For over 21 years, The KMAC GROUP has worked with some of the world’s best-known companies to help them grow their sales. Using our experience in strategic sales, key account management, sales training, project management, consumer engagement, strategic partnerships and live retail event activations, we help companies like Procter & Gamble and General Mills increase sales performance.

Sources: CNN World, Advertising Age, The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsico

Coca-Cola Official Press Release
PepsiCo Official Press release