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Ambush marketing at the World Cup


In some ways the biggest commercial winners from the World Cup may be those brands that are not official sponsors. Fifa partners were wrong footed by widespread protests over the cost of staging the competition in Brazil, although these died away once the competition started and Brazil progressed. However, it is difficult to stage and manage campaigns in countries experiencing deep social tensions and transformations.

Sponsors have tended to focus on the wider theme of football or national teams, although criticisms of alleged corruption at Fifa have not helped. To some extent it is a damaged brand although this may be offset by the success of the tournament to date in providing some sparkling football, the match between Belgium and the United States being an exemplar.

The tournament has provided opportunities for 'ambush marketing' in which brands associate themselves with an event without paying to be an official sponsor or partner. A classic example was a campaign by airline Tam that depicts attempts to stop Brazil's expat footballers flying back to their home country for the World Cup. By the time, Gol, the actual carrier of the Brazilian team, had complained to regulators and got a decision in their favour, Tam had enjoyed a month of airtime.

Sponsors can enjoy a boost from the performance of teams they are associated with. Costa Rica shirts have sold out and more are being produced, but it has been a big boost for their sponsors, Italian sportswear manufacturer Lotto.

Many sponsors think that the real gains are the hospitality perks of backing Fifa, giving them an allocation of seats for clients and contacts, allowing them to create goodwill and generate new business.