Kicking up a fuss

The World Cup captures people’s imaginations across the globe, so naturally brands want to be a part of it. But how do companies maximise the potential of sponsoring the tournament?

A survey published immediately before the 1998 World Cup in France claimed that 95 per cent of 20to 34-year-old men would turn down the chance of sex with the woman of their dreams rather than miss the footie.

The study by media buying and research company MediaCom revealed that only a power cut or the death of a loved one would prise young men away from the television.

Yet marketers are quick to note that it is not only men who get engrossed in the World Cup. Even the most suffering football widow is likely to be screaming at the television if Michael Owen scores a winning goal for England. In fact, such is the broad appeal of the globe’s most prestigious football tournament that the need for brands to be associated with it, either officially or unofficially, is overwhelming.

But, agencies and clients will have to work harder if they want to be noticed at next year’s football fiesta in Japan and Korea. The most obvious distinction from three years ago is the time difference, which will mean most of the key games will be shown after midnight in the UK. This will have an impact on the level of casual interest in the competition among consumers who rarely follow football.

The timing of games will also mean a greater role in promotional campaigns for new technology such as the Internet and the mobile phone. For France ’98 it was fantasy league football games, scratch cards and skill games such as spot the ball that worked well. But next summer, these traditional promotions could be overshadowed by interactive football games played on either mobile phones or computers.

A different pitch

Kevin Allen, board director of sales promotion agency Cramm Francis Woolf, says: “We still have a year to go until the World Cup but it’s obvious that new media will play a much bigger role than many people realise. Online promotional strategies are already evolving, with the majority simply variants of established offline themes and methods. The question is how the concepts being conceived now will have to change over the next 12 months.”

Since the last World Cup, most football fans have become regular visitors to football websites or subscribers to e-mail groups and are used to receiving news and scores as soon as something happens.

The Marketing Store is talking to a number of clients about running offers with a World Cup or general football theme. Head of digital communications Antonio Silano says: “People expect to get up-to-the-minute sports news and will demand this service around the World Cup and any brand must bear this in mind when devising promotions.”

New media companies are excited at the prospect of biting into the marketing budgets of major brands for the first time. Interactive Premiums, for instance, is a consultancy service offered by US entertainment software provider Interplay OEM. Its main business is licensing software to computer hardware manufacturers, but for the World Cup it is approaching UK companies about branding football computer games.

The idea is to give away games in a multipack promotion, through a newspaper offer or token collection scheme. The company can also provide shorter games, such as penalty shoot-outs, which can be e-mailed to a target market or downloaded from a brand’s website.

Interplay European sales manager James Cullen says: “We will brand football games that are already on the market, and can even change the advertising hoardings around the pitch for a client. Everyone wants to be associated with football nowadays because of the demographic it reaches, and football computer games are consistently among the best sellers.”

The right gameplay

The format of many promotions and the budgets available for such initiatives will ultimately depend on whether England or the other UK teams make it to the finals. This may not be known until November when the play-offs take place.

“Brands cannot afford to wait and see if England qualify, they must start working on campaigns now and then fine tune them if England or Scotland stay at home,” says Charles O’Reilly, managing director of promotions insurance company PIMS-SCA.

The cost of being an official World Cup sponsor has risen sharply in recent years, and for the 2002 event Fifa will secure 15 official sponsors through its new arm Fifa Marketing AG. This division was set up in April to take over the selling of the marketing rights for the World Cup from ISMM, the parent company of ISL Worldwide, which went bankrupt recently. By early June global brands Toshiba and Budweiser were among the 13 companies already confirmed.

Other brands will piggy-back the tournament with promotions themed more generally around football. O’Reilly says the key to ensuring the target market buys into such a promotion is to take the campaign into the consumer’s own territory.

“The time difference means that the evening pub market will be vital to build awareness of games and we are considering ideas with clients such as Murphy’s which already sponsors the Irish Golf Open. For this event we have installed putting games into pubs and we may do something similar for the World Cup, such as a penalty shoot-out competition,” he says.

Murphy’s is also offering a free pint to everyone in the crowd at the Irish Open in Cork if a player scores a hole in one. “Maybe we could develop the idea next summer around an England player scoring a hat-trick,” says O’Reilly.

One group likely to be hit hard by the timing of games are bookmakers, which usually expect a significant upturn in business around a major sporting event. The late showing of matches means they will have to find new ways to persuade punters to have a flutter.

One of Tarantula Responsive Communications’ clients is Coral which forecasts that Internet and telephone betting, alongside online promotions, will dominate next summer because betting shops will not open in the hours before and during matches.

Hedging their bets

“With France ’98 and Euro 2000 there were more promotional opportunities because the events were on our doorstep. Betting levels are always linked to the timing of an event so we will have to be more creative this time,” says Tarantula director Mark Huntley.

Coral’s promotions will aim to reach consumers in the evenings via pubs and bars with less budget allocated this time to the daily newspapers which tend to be bought in the morning.

Nevertheless, the national press remains a key marketing tool for many football-themed promotions, as the success of the Daily Telegraph’s Premier League has demonstrated since its launch in 1997. The game now attracts about 200,000 players, although this is down on the peak of 360,000 achieved in 1997.

It is run by promotional marketing services company GFM which is negotiating with the newspaper about how the game will work in the next World Cup. Three years ago the Telegraph World Football ’98 game was sponsored by Walkers and had a first prize of &£35,000. The number of players was never disclosed, but GFM admits participation levels for one-off events are lower than for the season-long game.

“We must start putting things in place soon. It was perhaps odd that the Telegraph was the first newspaper to go with this idea because of its readership profile, but the game has brought in more young male readers who have disposable incomes. This has boosted advertising revenue, and copy sales rise by around 80,000 when the League’s results are published,” says GFM business development director Peter Suchet.

“It has also generated a large database from which the paper has been able to sell everything from loans and private healthcare to books.”

Whether promotional activity is by official sponsors or not, the market will be cluttered next summer. We could see the profile of companies that have invested heavily to become a Fifa partner overshadowed by brands that have chosen not to. The massive exposure enjoyed by Nike around France ’98 should be a sharp reminder to all official backers.

Scoring an own goal

Cramm Francis Woolf board account director Phil Goodman was working on the Braun account three years ago when the brand signed up with Fifa for France ’98. As well as signing up as a sponsor, Braun recruited the then England captain Alan Shearer to endorse the brand. Goodman says Braun discovered during the post mortem of its activity that official involvement was not financially viable.

“Braun realised it could have implemented non-official activity with similar effect for substantially less cost. The biggest influence on sales was Alan Shearer, not the official sponsorship status, so the two things didn’t have to go hand in hand,” he says.

One company that will have a presence in Japan in an official capacity is Budweiser, which experienced a marked improvement in sales because if its involvement last time.

In the UK its off-trade and on-trade activity was overseen by sales promotions company Geoff Howe Independent and included a six-week Budweiser “Scratch & Match” campaign with The Sun and prizes of &£100,000 or World Cup tickets. More than 5 million gamecards were put in Budweiser multipacks and the promotion delivered an on-trade increase in sales of 57 per cent and a 489 per cent increase in volume in the first week, assisted by a TV advertising campaign funded by News International.

“Being an official sponsor does work for clients such as Budweiser because we could use its World Cup status to leverage third-party funding to make our budgets go further,” says GHI business development director Simon Marjoram.

Clients and agencies are beginning to think about what promotions they will run around next year’s World Cup. Online campaigns are likely to feature heavily, but it is the qualification of the home countries that could ultimately dictate the size of promotional budgets. Brands need to be sure that consumer interest in an event being held so far away will be as strong as it was three years ago – particularly if other distractions are on offer.

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