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International brands smell profit in the emerging and developing markets of Asia, South America and Africa. The scramble for market share has begun, and what better way to get noticed by consumers across an entire continent than by sponsoring a continental football tournament?

International brands smell profit in the emerging and developing markets of Asia, South America and Africa. The scramble for market share has begun, and what better way to get noticed by consumers across an entire continent than by sponsoring a continental football tournament?

Two deals struck at the end of the year illustrate how continental deals can benefit rights-holders and sponsors. In December, tyre manufacturer Bridgestone became the title sponsor of the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of Europe’s UEFA Champions League, in a five-year deal from 2013 to 2017.

The company believes the deal can improve on the gains in profile it achieved via its existing association with the Copa Sudamericana, the second-tier South American continental club competition, between 2011 and 2012, and help it close the gap on its competitors in the region. Bridgestone remains in talks with the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), to renew the Copa Sudamericana title sponsorship, this time in support of its Firestone brand.

Whether Bridgestone does the continental double or not, the Copa Libertadores title sponsorship should help the company achieve two important goals. One objective is to raise brand awareness in a region where Bridgestone lags behind other tyre brands Goodyear, Pirelli and Michelin. The second objective is to solve a problem it has specifically in Spanish-speaking countries, namely the pronunciation of Bridgestone, which South Americans tend to pronounce as “Bridge-es-ton”. Television broadcast teams were briefed to regularly mention Bridgestone’s name – correctly pronounced – during its sponsorship of the Copa Sudamericana.

In Africa, another market share play is unfolding with Nissan and the Africa Cup of Nations, the biennial national team football competition. The 2013 Cup of Nations finished at the weekend. Nissan’s deal to become the official automotive partner of the 2013 and 2015 Cup of Nations is part of a new marketing strategy for the Japanese carmaker involving a massive increase in sponsorship spending to support its ‘Power 88’ plan.

Covering the fiscal years 2011 to 2016, Power 88 targets an 8% global market share, and an increase in corporate operating profit margin from 6% in 2010 to 8%. The Cup of Nations deal is aimed at helping the company achieve a double-digit share of the African car market by 2016, with a particular focus on the markets in South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana and Kenya.

Other rights-holders are moving to take advantage of brands’ need for continent-wide platforms, meaning more competition for tournaments like the Copa Libertadores and Africa Cup of Nations. As Sports Marketing Frontiers exclusively reported in December, FIFA plans to sell up to 20 regional supporter sponsorship packages across five regions – Europe, North and Central America, South America, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia – for the 2018 World Cup and beyond.

These four-per-region packages replace the five national supporter packages for sale at South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, which apply only to the World Cup host’s market. An appetite for regional supporter-type packages was evident at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where big brands with operations throughout Africa wanted to take advantage of the exposure the World Cup could give them.

A good example was MTN, the South Africa-based mobile operator which has a strong presence across the African continent. As Raj Koria, consultant at the London-based law firm Halebury, told Sports Marketing Frontiers, the existing structure was not a perfect fit for MTN.

“If it had become a national supporter it would have missed out on the opportunity to activate its sponsorship of the first African World Cup in numerous key (African) territories,” Koria said. “MTN therefore became a global FIFA World Cup sponsor, which enabled it to connect with consumers all over Africa. However MTN did not activate its rights in 80% of the territories included in its sponsor package.”

The new FIFA structure should better meet the business goals of many international brands.

This is a personal perspective of Matthew Glendinning, editor of Sports Marketing Frontiers.

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