What Is The Value Of World Cup Sponsor Recognition Research?

I am writing to you this week from the U.K. where, as those who have followed the goings-ons of the World Cup will understand, all the national team merchandise is on sale at half price. Get yer Rooney gear cheap!

Anyway, in this third World Cup post I wanted to look at World Cup sponsor recognition research. After 10 years at Coca-Cola and over 3 years at Anheuser Busch-InBev,  I know what it’s like to be an official sponsor. I have negotiated directly with FIFA and so am somewhat familiar with the ins and outs.

And here is what baffles me: There seems to be a perpetual fixation with sponsor recognition. Last week, Joe Mandese reported on a study by GlobalWebIndex showing that several non-World Cup sponsors enjoy sometimes-decent recognition as an official sponsor. Nike vs. adidas, Coke vs. Pepsi, McDonald's vs. BurgerKing and Subway, Mastercard vs. Visa; you get the picture.

Why do we assign non-sponsors the coveted “Official Sponsor” designation? Because they all clutter the airwaves and the shopping aisles with World Cup-related activity, often featuring current/former soccer stars or other soccer-related cues. Pepsi uses Lionel Messi, Subway has Pele, Nike has everybody that adidas doesn’t have, and so on.

No wonder consumers are confused. “Ah,” says FIFA, “but as an official sponsor you get boards on the pitch.” And this is true. However, do consumers increase their purchase intent or grow positive brand awareness by seeing an endless parade of logos (not a brand message!) around a soccer pitch? In my mind these boards are the least valuable asset of any sports marketing deal. I have often been forced to buy them as part of the package, because “as a badge” they are important to the organizers, but for marketing they carry next to zero value.The only time I have had use for boards was when we were in the middle of a launch and just plain needed brand recognition.

The only advertisers I have seen doing something different at this World Cup are AB-InBev (rotating their local beer brands in line with the teams that are playing), Yingli (using Chinese characters) and McDonald’s, which has gone down the hashtag path. In week one, I kid you not, the company used #fryfutbol -- nice one for a company trying to convince stakeholders that it sells more than high calorie fried food. I haven’t seen that hashtag again.

FIFA will also argue that with the boards come a number of marketing right, such as  The Budweiser Man of the Match, the Powerade FIFA World Cup Match Alert, the Coca-Cola FIFA World Ranking and the use of the official marks and designations. And there is certainly some value to be able to carry the official FIFA World Cup livery. But the value has significantly diminished as local soccer associations sell rights to their own teams and players, meaning that Carlsberg in the U.K .advertises the hell out of its association with the English national team. Well, it did, anyway.

So measuring sponsor recognition is a meaningless metric. The ROI of your investment -- with or without an official sponsorship package -- should be evaluated against real business impact metrics.

Anyway, back to the action on the pitch, as my team from The Netherlands is still in it. Next week we will examine if  online World Cup marketing activities are being measured in a more meaningful way.

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