The Rhythm of Soccer: Why World Cup Brands Need Music to Sell at Scale

I Hate the vuvuzela. Remember the continual sound of angry bumblebees swarming South African football stadiums during the last World Cup? Drunken fans chanting “Olé, Olé, Olé” was grating enough in World Cups past, but in 2010 the vuvuzela delivered the antithesis of rhythm. This year, however, the World Cup returned to Brazil – the home of rhythm – and marketers found that music is a brand’s best friend. 

In fact, music may have separated the winners from the losers in the brand competition happening around the actual games. 

While World Cup is no doubt a beloved global phenomenon, let’s be honest: music delivers greater universality than sports. Although star players have name recognition among their home country’s fans, rock stars deliver worldwide adoration. Connecting superstar musicians into an activation or spot delivers global recognition and reaches beyond the diehard fan to more mass casual viewers. 



While campaigns are certainly playing into the traditional sounds of Brazil, plenty are spending big bucks on significant music activations, tapping modern global acts to really move the proverbial needle. Music has clearly taken something big and made it undeniably bigger. 

  • Coca-Cola: World Cup Song – Having invested $200M+ on music-related activation in 2013, with a legacy of music integration, they were destined to make music their 2014 World Cup vehicle. In 2010, they made big noise commissioning K’Naan’s Wavin Flag; releasing 24 versions, many of which topped the charts. That can’t be ignored and this year they did it again, partnering with X-Factor alum David Correy and Brazilian band Monobloco to create 32 versions of the new song, The World Is Ours. The song currently has 1M+ YouTube views, proving that music is vital to scale. 
  • Budweiser: Budweiser Hotel – AB-InBev topped the list of music marketers in 2013, spending over $400M on music-related tactics. For World Cup, they continued to spend creatively. Bud took over a five-star Rio hotel, renaming it the Budweiser Hotel. Throughout the games, Budweiser is in non-stop party mode – hosting indoor, rooftop and pool parties featuring performances by some of the biggest names in EDM, including Zedd and Major Lazer. By partnering with media properties like VICE and Playboy, Bud capitalized on increased scale. 

I’d be remiss not to acknowledge their big coup, securing not only a synch from Guns n’ Roses, but a cameo from Axl himself for an unrelated World Cup-themed TV spot. 

  • Beats by Dre: Game Before the Game – Banking on the expectation that this World Cup will be the world’s most social event, Beats created an epic branded video featuring Jamie N Commons and a Jay-Z remix verse that focuses on global player preparation. Said video had already garnered 18M views before the tournament started, delivering massive scale. 

Scale around sports and music continues to be more vital. In a market where brands define scale through social reach and sharing, leveraging a synch provides greater value when the spot expands to branded video executions on YouTube. And although FIFA sponsor dollars are up approximately 10% from 2010, with 22 marketers spending over USD $1.4B for rights (Analytic Partners, Mar. 2014), brands are touch-and-go as to size of on-site World Cup activation.  

Simply put, the stakes are high and the opportunities great. The smartest brands are maximizing their investment by simply understanding the total brand experience from the perspective of people. And while the game is at the core of their experience, it’s music that expands it exponentially. 

This is why we will and should continue to see integration of music into major sports efforts. The increased investment of pairing music with sports is worth the price to brands because it effectively taps social scale and universal engagement beyond the sports property. 

If sports and music are central to your brand, ask yourself:

1)      What’s my existing ROI on my sponsorships and what do I still need to achieve?

2)      How can I integrate music to leverage an artist’s audience to build greater, proven engagement at the right scale?

3)      What’s the connection between artist and sports property that can be celebrated? 

With the 20th World Cup now over, chances are you saw not only best-in-class soccer, but some amazing music marketing. If brands have their way, the millions spent on integrating music resulted in billions of impressions and movement in market share. The real growth opportunity is after the game – to have your brand resonate like a song in fans’ heads that they can’t get enough of. 

When all is said and done, great music always drowns out the vuvuzela. 

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