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Why unofficial partner brands shouldn’t ignore World Cup opportunities

Why unofficial partner brands shouldn’t ignore World Cup opportunities

By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.

The FIFA World Cup 2010 is set to be on one of the biggest global sporting events of the year.

The event is drawing coverage around the world as superstar footballers step into their boots and fans are rallied to back their national teams.

Major brands have paid ‘big bucks’ to be associated with the event including Sony, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates and Hyundai. But opportunities still exist for other marketers and brands to get involved.

However this needs to be approached in the right way. The organisers will obviously not allow anyone to ride on their coat tails free and FIFA has put in place strict guidelines on copyright laws.

According to marketing manager at law firm Slater Heelis, Carrie Hamer, brands that affiliate themselves unofficially with the event through the use of the South African flag or football-related images, could  still risk falling foul of FIFAs rules.
“Items and wording with connotations to the World Cup have already been trademarked, including South Africa 2010, ZA 2010 and the South African flag when pictured with any football-related images,” she told UTalkMarketing.

“The vuvuzela, a trumpet-like instrument iconic to South African football matches, has also been reserved for FIFA’s use. Some 50,000 intellectual property infringements have been noted in South Africa related to the World Cup so far, and it hasn’t even started yet.”
Hamer added, “Although brands may wish to be creative in order to capitalise on the event, it may be worth noting that attempts at ambush marketing thus far have not been successful.”

For example, South African low-cost airline Kulula was forced to drop its advertising campaign launched in February, which read: “The unofficial national carrier of the ‘you know what’.”

But opportunities still exist for brands who can’t afford the official rights.

 “Rather, whilst non associated brands might not have the luxury of placing the coveted logo on their product or mentioning the World Cup they will have far more opportunities to show creativity, imagination and flair than officially associated brands who will be bound by legal stipulations on what can and can’t be said, used and done,” explained Director of Fotorama, Philip Penlington.

So how should marketers best tread this fine line, making sure they are associated enough with the FIFA World Cup to benefit, but not so much as to incur the wrath and a weighty fine from the organisers?

CEO at search and social conversion agency Tamar, Tanya Goodin, said that innovative brands could leverage the opportunities the World Cup presents with some clever timing and good material.
“One of the only channels that FIFA cannot control during the tournament is the content of the Google Search Results. Many more consumers are typing ‘World Cup’ than ‘FIFA World Cup’ into the search engines. That means the search results are full of enterprising affiliates targeting niche search terms relating to the World Cup,” she advised.
“If you have a product that is related to the World Cup, it is easy to make a link, as long as you don’t mention the elements protected by intellectual copyright like ‘FIFA World Cup 2010’ or use the FIFA logo or branding. The media has been granted fair usage rights of these terms.”
Goodin added, “It’s also a good idea to speak about related products. For example, if you are an electronics retailer and sell televisions, you can actively target terms like ‘world cup in 3D’. This will be a hot-ticket news and trend item in the coming months, lasting well after the tournament ends in South Africa on July 11.
“If you are selling 3D TVs, this is a heaven-sent opportunity, as Sony is investing heavily in promotion of their 3D technology, which will enable the World Cup to be watched in 3D for the first time. For example, you should be writing new content for your website and blog that features this term heavily (without over-cooking it!).”
Goodin went on to say that any mentions of the event, on a company website/blog that were relevant and useful were likely to be picked up by search engines, encouraging more click-throughs.

But rather than playing it completely safe, David Balko, Commercial Director at digital agency Jigsaw, (part of the Mobile Interactive Group), said that some of the smarter brands would be looking to get into hot water – to a degree.

“Look at how Nike use traditional methods to outshine the official partners.  Using aggressive and guerrilla tactics will get coverage, and often the creative is much better than the ‘corporate’ communications developed by official partners,” he added.  

“Clearly, the web will play a large part.  Brands that use clever creative, aligned to smart social media efforts will generate a good deal of conversations which can be turned into sales.”

In a clear warning, he added, “The key for the non-obvious brands is to make it relevant.  Don’t just do a World Cup promotion for the sake of it.”

There are no shortage of brands for which guerrilla ‘ambush’ marketing might prove appealing. The flipside is with so much clutter how do you make your brand stand out?
“Brands considering ‘ambush’ marketing  must first ask themselves a few hard questions,” said Stuart Wareman, Business Director, MEC Access, the sponsorship division of  media agency network MEC.

“Going back to the marketing basics of objectives, audience and strategy, brands must ask themselves whether football and the World Cup is actually right for the brand; does the brand have a credible right to be playing in the football space?”

He added, “Carlsberg isn't a FIFA partner but will use its rights and credibility with the FA to ensure its sponsorship of the England team comes to the fore at the right time - during the World Cup.

“Brands also need to ask what they want to say in the promotion or creative execution? Given there are severe legal restrictions on what brands can say in relation to the World Cup, does the messaging still work or do the restrictions dilute it too much? And finally, the audience; what will their take out be? And does this align with what the brand needs to achieve?”

Wareman went on to say that the key incentive fans crave is tickets and no-one other than official sponsors can use these promotionally.  But beyond that, he added that there were still significant opportunities for brands.

“As the England football team progresses, the nation will go football mad. Brands can tap into this passion and align with football through events, big screenings - particularly in 3D, media sponsorships or simple football themed promotions such as branded football and England flag giveaways,” explained Wareman.

“The facts remain though; credibility in all this is key.  Fans can be very fickle – they can spot a brand 'riding on the back of football' a mile away.  For a brand to gain traction with fans, it needs a relevant role to play in the fans' enjoyment of the World Cup.”

He concluded, “By placing fans at the heart and adding value, they're more likely to appreciate and value the brand's support.  It will be interesting for example to see how Pepsi's recently unveiled ambush campaign works against Coca Cola's 'official' campaign.

“And we shouldn't judge on 'awareness levels' or one-upmanship.  For these global brands, success is all about driving sales and the bottom line.”

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