World Cup branding hat tricks and own goals

So the World Cup is nearly over, and the culmination of months (if not years) of careful planning by brands has erupted before our eyes. And it isn’t just the official sponsors who want a slice of the action. The halo effect thrown by the Jules Rimet trophy is something brands of all sizes have been scrabbling to capitalise on. Some have paid millions for the privilege – Budweiser, Adidas, Sony and many more. But for all brands, this global sporting event presents a golden marketing opportunity.

Billions of eyes have been on Brazil for the past month. Whether in stadiums, through television sets, or on smartphone screens, the World Cup is a global extravaganza that captivates the world’s attention. In cold hard numbers, an estimated 3.6 billion people will have watched the 64 matches, and hundreds of millions of those fans will have conversed about the World Cup on social media. Who wouldn’t want to get in on that action?

One brand whose advertising has proved incredibly popular is Beats Audio, whose star-studded “game before the game” ad (somewhat of an online epic at 5 minutes long) has become a social media smash with 19 million views to date. And it’s not just about the big budget ads; other winners have used clever real-time marketing to jump in on social conversations around the World Cup and own a moment (to use Twitter’s terminology).

But for every goal scored by a brand, there’s been a cringe-worthy yellow card.

The social advertising winners
This is the World Cup where social became a primary vehicle for reaching global audiences. Three advertising campaigns account for almost 60% of shares in the World Cup Top 20 ads. These are Nike’s ‘Winner Stays’, Castrol’s ‘Footkhana’ and Activia’s ‘La La La’ campaigns. Nike and Castrol invested millions into their ads, and got them out there in enough time to really capture market share in the lead up to the games. You’d expect nothing less from the big sponsors of course.

Activia’s effort was a little different; they teamed up with Shakira to record a new song for the tournament called ‘La La La’. It has racked up 50m YouTube views so far – beating the official track by Pitbull and JLo by a cool 30m. It works because it features Argentinian striker Lionel Messi, showcases a lot of impressive hip-wiggling by the Colombian songbird, and it’s darn catchy. The lesson? Big budgets help, but sometimes a simple formula can be a winning one.

Adidas’ Twitter Football
Adidas has given the official match football a Twitter account – @brazuca. Sound crazy? Well over 2.25 million followers on Twitter don’t think so. Sample tweet: “I feel like I’ve been put on the spot here. #pressure”. The idea behind giving the match ball a voice is genius, and gives an injection of humour and personality to, what after all, is just a collection of stitched together leather patches. That takes some doing. Goal allowed!

Never underestimate the competition
Continental Tyres have been using Twitter to give away World Cup final tickets. The initiative has seen fans invited to guess answers to tweeted teasers such as ‘How many shots on target will Ronaldo make?’ to be in with a chance of winning. These have been matched against real-time data supplied by Squawka during key matches to engage with football fans as they follow the game online. Each task has taken the form of digital display ads, promoted tweets and live data visualisations from games. People love competitions, and they’re great for driving brand engagement, particularly when the prize is a valuable one. And they don’t come much more once-in-a-lifetime than tickets to the biggest game in world football.

Flying by the seat of their pants
Delta Airlines scored a huge own goal when they tweeted the score of the USA v Ghana match. Next to the USA score, they posted a picture of the Statue of Liberty. So far, so logical right? However, next to the Ghana score they posted a picture of a giraffe. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, giraffes do not live in Ghana. So if you lived in Ghana you’d be pretty annoyed. It’s on a par with using a picture of a Kangaroo to represent the UK; it makes no sense. The airline realised their blooper, and sent out a tweet apologising for the mistake. Sadly for whoever had their fingers on the Twitter keyboard, this went wrong too, as instead of typing ‘previous tweet’ they wrote ‘precious tweet’. This gaffe caused understandable outrage, with many saying the brand displayed an ignorance of different cultures. The lesson? By all means get in on the sporting action, but do your research and do everything in your power to avoid offending a whole nation. It never ends well.

Pizza your mind? No thanks
In a spectacular error of judgment, Papa Johns pizza live-tweeted the whole opening. Every single incident of it, every corner kick. Imagine that. It wasn’t clear how this was relevant, and this was a big fail for the pizza company. Yes, people may eat pizza at half time during games. But this tactic was spammy, and added no value to the many sports feeds doing the same – only better – during the game. Followers left in droves, and vocally complained to add insult to injury (time. Sorry…). What can we learn? That owning the moment is one thing. But hijacking it is another thing altogether.


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