The Real World Cup Winners
Every four years since 1930 the Football World Cup comes rolling around. Gaining momentum with every tournament, it’s recognised as the single most watched sporting competition in the world. Not to shabby for the players, for the game, and of course for the billions of global football supporters. But what about the money, the economy and most importantly the advertisers that have tapped into this inspiration-fuelled event?
Originally football advertising was limited to in–person sales. Sales of kit, of food, whatever was available pitch side. Over time, with the advent of TV, radio, and the internet, opportunities for advertisers to capitalise became endless. From PPC, to content marketing, special promotions to epic TV adverts. Viewers are bombarded with World Cup content as early as months before the actual tournament.
To give context, during the 2018 World Cup, Fifa estimated that there were more than 3 billion searches relating to the tournament. They also recorded that related material was viewed by more than 5 billion people. During the current 2022 World Cup Fifa estimated that over $100 million has been spent by brands to advertise during the tournament.
The potential reach for brands is jaw-dropping. It’s no surprise that advertisers are tasked with rewriting the very concept of audience engagement and often with budgets to match. Some TV adverts in recent years are considered among the best adverts of all time. It’s clear that nothing is left on the table. Every four years, the top brands battle it out to gain the hearts and purchases of football fans.
Why are they so good?
So, what exactly is it that makes World Cup advertising so completely memorable? From the impressive list of TV adverts that stand out as changing the game, it’s clear they have some important factors in common. The ads that really grip us. The ads that anchor us to the beautiful game are those that build wholeheartedly on the idea of community, inspiration, and nostalgia.
Take Carlsberg and their TV adverts during the 2002 World Cup. ‘Carlsberg Dreams’ tells a heart-tugging tale of the Irish national team moving through the tournament. They bank win after win, knocking England out in the process and go on to take the title. Each success plays out against a backdrop of overwhelmed fans, dancing celebrations and utter joy. The tag line of ‘Carlsberg don’t do dreams but if they did, they’d probably be the best in the world’ speaks to every fan’s hopes. Hopes that their own home country could possibly scoop the title. Hopes that even the most unlikely of teams have a chance. This tie to country and ‘what if’ is enough to engage with any viewer.
As for ‘The Old Lions’, Carlsberg double down on nostalgia. The advert follows a pub team made up of some of the finest old guard England players. Viewers soak up the banter and pre-game, and watch as they take on an opponent pub team to win. Packed with references that true fans will delight in and underlining the ties that bind across generations, it’s hard not to fall in love with a game that can do just that.
When it comes to inspiring the masses, Nike are the power player. Each advert evokes the kind of motivation and joy in sport that few other brands seem to manage. Nike World Cup adverts are no different.
Nike’s ‘Airport’ advert in 1998 is widely recognised to as the genesis for the heart-gripping, soul-lifting adverts that have followed since. Each moment plays to the love of the game and the national pride it provokes as it follows the Brazilian squad having a knock around at the airport. Completely joy filled, it’s hard to resist. Followed up by their ‘Joga Bonita’ advert where we were invited into the Brazilian squad dressing room to soak up the love and skills they all possess, it’s impossible to miss the the inspiration and creativity around the sport.
Nike’s ‘Write the Future’ in 2010 might be the most epic of all. This colour–saturated, fast-paced story telling combines snapshots of ‘what if’ moments. Featuring legends of the game, it takes us to all corners of the globe. The electrifying scenes move players from hero to villain in a second and switch with such speed it’s impossible not to be gripped. The ability to encompass such rich story telling and inclusivity into such a short clip is impressive.
So, who really wins?
The list could go on. One moment we’re watching Adidas persuading viewers through fever dreams of winning. On to Adidas bringing the ‘football’ family back together to underline that community is everything. Next we’re tuning in to Coca Cola soaking up culture and joy, integrating music and talent from all around the world. Breaking it down, it’s hard to see which relies on which more, the advertisers or the World Cup? The power held by both in the 6 months surrounding this 4 yearly event is a battle of inspirational thinkers, deep pockets and just about every way possible to gain the attention of the world.