The World Cup in South Africa has dominated the airwaves (social and traditional) for the past month and much of the recent conversation has been around the ‘ambush marketing’ tactics we have seen from non official sponsors like Nike and Pepsi and how they stole a march on their official sponsor competitors, Adidas and Coca-Cola. While the balance seems to have now been addressed it was interesting to see how the media landscape has shifted in the last four years (since the last tournament) to such an extent that sponsorship of a major event is no longer enough, on its own, to command the lions’ share of audience attention and WOM.
This is the first World Cup that we have had established, organized social media channels and they have moved the goalposts in terms of what is needed to be covered in corporate marketing mixes to own the airwaves and conversations between fans. Sponsorship used to be all you needed to do to ‘own’ the conversation and dominate WOM. You now need a fully integrated program that covers all the channels and that includes social media along with TV, offline and exposure in the stadiums.
Nike showed, with their ‘write the future’ video, that you don’t need to be a sponsor to create viral content around a context and get the same or increased return…plus they bought well placed 30 sec ad slots in the key games encouraging viewers to head online to see the full version. In contrast, Adidas focused far more on social media at the expense of heavy TV ads…and this may be why Nike were able to steal the jump on them so early in the tournament.
Commercial partners of sporting events, or any other event for that matter need to cover all the bases. Use the exclusive relationship they have with the event to generate exclusive content that they can give to their online audience as well as realizing the traditional channels should not be ignored but rather weaved into the overall communication strategy. Being a major sponsor for an event is a huge advantage and one that can provide significant value over the competition…but it isn’t enough on its own anymore.