Sporting focus: World cup strategy - Hitting the target

Events like the World Cup are not an everyday occurrence, so any brand activity must be well planned and relevant.

An abundance of carnivals, festivals and fiestas marking the World Cup, and celebrating Brazil and its obsession with football, has been difficult to avoid. But while it may be tempting for brands to go overboard with South American theming, there still needs to be clarity in event activity if the brand message is not to be diluted.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is a prime example of this. The brand is one of the major World Cup sponsors, and Lynda Benton, marketing director, corporate equity, says it was important that it put across its caring values to consumers through face-to-face activity. "We saw the World Cup as a golden opportunity to connect our passion for caring with the same passion people have for football. Our 'caring is caring' messaging throughout Brazil 2014 has been about inspiring people to care for one another. We wanted to do that for volunteers, fans, players and the local community."

J&J's family areas at Fifa Fan Fests brought this message to life. Structures were erected at three host cities, offering a place for parents and children to enjoy the tournament. "Families could register their children with an official ID bracelet so that they were safe," explains Benton. "We also provided safe and clean baby-changing facilities, photo opportunities with the World Cup mascot, comfortable seating and colouring tables."

In similar fashion, Hyundai Motor UK adopted a calculated approach to its event strategy for the World Cup. Andrew Cullis, marketing director, says the brand took a three-pronged attack: "'Aware' was about gaining maximum awareness for the brand as a Fifa partner, while 'Engage' was about the digital experience and linking the global 'social fan park' to our local sponsorship of YouTube football channel Copa90, including content production and ticket competitions. We targeted our online experience towards armchair football fans."

These online consumers could track the brand's Copa90 partnership via videos of football fans in Brazil, who were given free lifts in Hyundai ix35s, dubbed 'World Cup taxis'.

Cullis says the third element of the strategy, 'Act', was about engaging Hyundai's customers with special-edition models and in-dealer events, as part of a World Cup vault competition. Customers were given a key to a vault, which opened one of six drawers and included prizes such as MP3 players, cameras, TVs and footballs. They also had the chance to win a Hyundai i30 vehicle.

For some brands it was important to bring Brazil to Britain, as Paul Ridsdale, head of marketing at ITV, explains: "We wanted our coverage of the 2014 World Cup to be as immersive as possible, so that viewers and fans could really experience the excitement and atmosphere of the tournament in Brazil. As part of the overall strategy, creating a big consumer event felt like the ultimate way to bring this to life."

ITV's Fever Pitch activation in Manchester (see p24-25) did just that, providing not only a form of immersive entertainment through World Cup screenings and beach soccer games, but also demonstrating the brand's passion for sport, Ridsdale says.

Opportunities to reach mass global audiences like those gathered for the World Cup are few and far between. According to Nikki Hayward, assistant brand manager at Regaine, these occasions are a time to pounce (see p24-25). "It's when football makes both the front and back pages and drives the agenda," she says. "For us it wasn't about trying to use traditional media channels, but about using the World Cup and experiential activity to engage and reinforce brand awareness."

J&J's Benton says the brand has learnt much from this year's World Cup, something that the industry can carry over for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and other major international events. "We launched our events programme three years ago - you cannot simply wait until kick-off to do something," she says. "Between 80 and 85 per cent of our activations happened before the tournament, that way we were not starting from scratch."

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