What you can learn from World Cup branding (and vuvuzelas)

The recent media storm following over the Bavaria Beer marketing campaign, where 40 women dressed in orange promoted an unofficial beer, goes to show just how passionately the big brands take the FIFA tournament.

But the World Cup isn’t just an opportunity for big business – it’s an opportunity for every company, brand or organisation, no matter how big or small, to get involved in the action. After all, what better way to engage with consumers than to get behind an event that can grip popular imagination unlike no other on Earth.

The first point to make is that it’s not just the sponsors who are benefitting from World Cup buzz. In fact, recent statistics have suggested that the brands doing best out of this year’s World Cup (at the time of writing, anyway) are Pepsi and Nike. even though Adidas and Coke are the official sponsors. How have they done it? Generally speaking, it’s been down to some pretty breathtaking and innovative digital marketing campaigns.

Nike’s “write the future” video stars well-known sports personalities, including the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kobe Bryant and, um, Homer Simpson! To date, this video has had almost 15 million hits on YouTube alone. Pepsi has also done a brilliant job of creating a campaign blending football and elements of African culture, ranging from TV adverts to print advertisements in the national press. Although neither company may be official sponsors, most consumers seem to think they are.

You might be wondering how this relates to you? The key thing about great branding campaigns isn’t how many billions you have to throw at the pot, but how innovative you are and how good are your ideas. The great thing about innovation, of course, is it doesn’t need to cost that much. The one example that immediately springs to mind is the vuvuzela.

Love them or hate them, vuvuzelas have been the story of this World Cup. Everyone is blowing them – and the noise is driving players and commentators mad! The man who invented the meter-long, funnel-shaped trumpet (55-year-old father of nine, Freddie Maake) is unlikely to make a penny, yet he has single-handidly been responsible for the most iconic image of this tournament.w

While Nike and Pepsi may well be patting themselves on the back over their campaigns, neither of them have engaged people in the same way as the vuvuzela. Just imagine if you had come up with the idea, branded the vuvuzela with your company logo and distributed a couple of thousand of them to supporters before the World Cup.

Obviously not all World Cup branding strategies go according to plan and there are lots of examples of companies who have really “ballsed” it up (pardon the pun). For example, a certain crisp company had the novel idea of launching new flavours based on different countries. Unfortunately for them, quite of a few of the countries they picked didn’t actually qualify for the World Cup.

My advice would be to be creative and get your whole team involved; the most obvious idea is often overlooked or camouflaged by convention. Creating a branding competition with your staff is great way to get them thinking about your brand and understanding its core values.

Mark is the CEO of branding agencies 1 HQ

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