Coke deflects concerns about World Cup ambush marketing

Coca-Cola’s European vice president of marketing has dismissed concerns that the brand’s sponsorship of the Brazil World Cup may be threatened by ambush marketing from rivals because he believes the brand is doing the “right thing” by eschewing the use of celebrity stars in its activation campaign to promote the “human” story of what Coke describes as the “World’s Cup”.

Coke’s European VP of marketing says its choice to promote ‘human’ stories rather than use big stars will prove it has done ‘the right thing’.

Coke launched its World Cup global advertising campaign earlier this month with a digital “One World, One Game” film that explains how four football teams from different parts of the world overcame adversity through their love of the sport. Meanwhile, rival Pepsi – not a sponsor of the tournament – this month launched a push featuring stars such as Barcelona’s Leo Messi and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, which is set in Rio.

Javier Sanchez Lamelas, Coca-Cola Europe vice president of marketing, asserted to Marketing Week at the Festival of Media Global in Rome that the reason Coca-Cola is the leading brand and will be recognised for that status during the tournament is because it is “the real thing”.

He added: “We are doing the sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup and have done for years because we believe it is the right thing to do. Other people have chosen not to do it. The reason why we believe it is the right thing is because it has the incredible ability to promote physical activity and football.

“We have an obligation to sports events like the World Cup and the Olympics to [promote] physical activity and grass roots sports. Everything starts with the right thing to do.”

Lamelas said the success of this approach has already been demonstrated in the early feedback of the 2014 World Cup activation.

He added: “One of the things consumers have said they liked the most is that the campaign is down to earth and human. It’s not about the big stadiums and superstars. It’s about the World’s Cup and the human story.”

Social media monitoring has identified that “90 per cent” of the buzz around the global campaign since it launched earlier this month has been positive, and that it has generated more than 400 million impressions. Lamelas says words associated with the activity from consumers include “human”, “an emotional connection”, “touches my heart”, and that it even made them cry.

Lamelas agreed that recent civil unrest in Brazil could threaten the Coca-Cola brand by association if it also heats up again during the tournament, but that the success of its Sochi Winter Olympics sponsorship – despite protests against Russia’s controversial “anti gay” laws – prove that it does not have too much cause for concern.

In the build up to the Winter Olympics, Coca-Cola began to make “more pointed” messages about diversity which included its “Reasons to Believe” TV ad  in the UK that featured a gay wedding scene.