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2014 is dominated by a single sporting event – the Fifa World Cup. In 2013, brands were starved of a true global super-show where they could flex their marketing muscle, but as the kick-off in Sao Paolo, Brazil draws closer, we can expect both official and non-official partners to up the sponsorship ante.

2014 is dominated by a single sporting event – the Fifa World Cup. In 2013, brands were starved of a true global super-show where they could flex their marketing muscle, but as the kick-off in Sao Paolo, Brazil draws closer, we can expect both official and non-official partners to up the sponsorship ante.

Brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, Continental and McDonald’s have all invested in a shared total rights package worth UK£5.5 billion in commercial revenue over its four-year cycle for Fifa. So what are the challenges and opportunities that await the heavyweight family of brands in Brazil?

The Fifa World Cup is an unrivalled space for brands. To put things into context, at this year’s World Cup, the partners will have access to communicate with over 50 per cent of the world’s population. Four billion fans will tune in on television, as well as a multitude of digital and social media channels. It’s a monumental chance for brand exposure, as well as a battle for interest and space.

So how can they rise above the clutter? Brazil is a country full of colour, energy and passion. For brands to achieve their objectives, it is imperative they tap into these values.
If they ignore them in favour of commercial keywords such as leadership and professionalism, they will not flourish.

Adidas, and their excellent ‘All In’ strategy, have already set their stall out to tackle Nike’s long-standing supremacy in the South American territory. At December’s launch of the official World Cup match ball, the Brazuca, the German sportswear giant crowd-sourced the opinions of over one million fans in Brazil to help name the ball. Additionally, the clever PR stunt to give all Brazilians born on its launch day a free ball was a cute local activation strategy that tapped deeper into the innate passion for football in the host nation.

Local activation is one way of engaging consumers, but the most effective channels where brands will be able to capitalise in Brazil, is by enhancing the fan experience and bringing them closer to the action. Integrating branded content within social media and mobile marketing platforms represents the real battleground for brands.

Social media is an emotive and genuine way for fans to follow sport, share their own experiences and spur on opposing fans to interact with each other. It is integral for these brands to view Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as a channel where they can add value and not distract fans from the event.

Coca-Cola are already beginning to take advantage of the hype and anticipation of this summer’s World Cup. As sponsors of the World Cup Trophy Tour, they have integrated photography posted by football fans on Instagram into the brand’s official World Cup anthem. By evoking the passion, energy and mass appeal of football’s showpiece competition, Coca-Cola has reaped the benefits of an amplified social media strategy with greater, regular engagement and meaningful interaction with football fans.

As well as a proactive social media strategy, it is equally important for brands to capitalise on the real-time action. Oreo (Super Bowl 2013 – You Can Still Dunk in the Dark) and Adidas (2012 Olympics Games – #StageTaken) illustrated just how successful reactive social media stunts can be to help build advocacy and audience numbers. You can expect non-official partners, specifically betting brands keen to show off their personality, to be primed and ready to take advantage of the news agenda. By resonating with the performance on the field, it means brands come across as more knowledgeable and authentic – an attribute that cannot be underestimated.

Consumers will be able to watch video on demand from Brazil, whenever they want, irrespective of the location. The increased access to mobile and tablet technology means more online video content will be consumed. Another of the Fifa World Cup 2014 partners, VISA, advanced their digital audience through the creation of branded content for their ‘Go World’ Olympics campaign in 2012. VISA populated their YouTube channel with exclusive video content, telling the real life stories of athletes competing in the games. By understanding what the audience wanted, it enabled VISA to build its credibility and a global presence, meaning they were able to cut through.

We can all be mistrustful of brands trying to barge their way into the pure experience of sport.  The challenge for Fifa’s World Cup 2014 partners is to find a position at the heart of the conversation that allows them to be creative with the freedom to engage with an enthusiastic and passionate fan base. This will provide long-term value and opportunities for brands to continue their association beyond the final on July 13th in Rio de Janerio.

Sam Feasey is a senior account manager, communications at brandRapport

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