During Monday’s World Cup match between the Netherlands and Denmark, 36 spectators were removed from the stadium. They weren’t cursing at the referees. They weren’t causing fights. Their crime was wearing orange dresses. The group huddled in the front row of the stadium and the sea of orange grabbed the attention of several cameras during the game. But these weren’t just ordinary dresses. They were supplied by the Dutch brewery, Bavaria, which means they were in direct offense of Fifa’s marketing regulations.
According to the Fifa Rights Protection document, “The FIFA World Cup not only attracts fans and official partners, but also the ambush marketing activities of companies seeking to secure themselves a slice of the rewards illicitly without offering any financial support in return. . . In the last decade, shrewd advertising strategies have been developed with more and more ways of bypassing the main sponsors by distributing free materials bearing bold, eye-catching company logos or similar insignia to the fans attending sporting events so as to use them as human billboards.” And these tactics are strictly forbidden in the stadium.
However, dozens of companies from around the world are capitalizing on the World Cup and using it as a launch pad to reinvigorate corporate identities, attract new consumers and demonstrate a brand’s personality. While in-stadium “ambush marketing” tactics may be a no-no, there is a loophole – online!
Budweiser, for example, launched an extensive digital campaign around the World Cup. The “Bud United” YouTube channel includes a “Big Brother” meets “The Real World” reality webisode series depicting “32 fans from 32 countries all living under one roof in South Africa during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.” Fans can support their favorite teams, influence cast members’ activities, and discuss the games. To date, the channel has over 1.3 million views. The supporting Facebook page, which has over 800,000 fans, offers additional interactive features such as a voting mechanism for “Man of the Game” and a “Paint Your Face” widget so your profile picture reflects the team you support.
I understand that soccer – or football – is a sport that is taken seriously all around the world. And I can understand the desire Fifa has in maintaining the sanctity of the World Cup. However, the real lesson here is for Bavaria – while the orange dress brigade did succeed in getting some media coverage, they would have been better off creating a less intrusive, more engaging online experience for consumers. You tie that to an electric event like the World Cup and you’re guaranteed a win.
*Thanks to Nicole Puhl for the idea behind this post!