Winning The World Cup Of Brand Awareness Without Spending The Dollars


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A History Of Athletic Sponsorships

For the past 66 years Adidas has been paying teams, players, and leagues to wear its football apparel and to use its signature three-stripe ball. The 2014 World Cup was no different for Adidas or any other official World Cup sponsor like Hyundai, Kia, McDonalds, Visa, or Budweiser. Corporate team sponsorships totaled almost $400 million with both Adidas and Nike fighting head-to-head for the most brand representation. While Adidas did beat Nike in overall brand presence, for the first time ever, Nike successfully garnered 10 teams to wear its brand – one more than Adidas. Who wins?

Winners Don't Spend A Fortune

Both Nike and Adidas implemented successful World Cup marketing tactics in order to promote their individual brands throughout the tournament. Despite the companies’ incredible investments, the real brand winners were the unofficial World Cup sponsors.

These were brands such as ACHTUNG!, an Amsterdam Ad agency, Beats by Dre, Havianas, and Volkswagen. These brands successfully created brand awareness without the multi-million dollar official sponsorship buy-ins.


For Instance:

  • Directly after the Suarez biting incident, ACHTUNG! published a Pacman-like game called Biteman that garnered significant social media attention.
  • Beats by Dre created a five-minute segment to showcase pre-match music rituals known as “The Game Before The Game”. The segment included big name football stars and featured a few other athletes like LeBron James and Serena Williams. The video garnered 23 million views on YouTube.
  • Havianas produced a range of flip-flop designs featuring the tournament’s different countries and aired a short video online featuring veteran football star Romário sending a Brazilian-style flip-flop to veteran Argentinian rival, Diego Maradona.
  • While Kia and Hyundai were the official World Cup sponsors, Volkswagen entered into the unofficial sponsorship arena with a series of funny online car promotions. When a goal was scored, and users saw a VW Golf in the colors of the scoring team kick a goal into the net. The real prize came in with the commentator Andrés Cantor’s notorious yell, “GOOOOOOOAL” which turned into “GOOOOOOOLF”.

The success of these unofficial World Cup sponsors proves to be a testament to the power of creative social media marketing and its ability to generate significant brand awareness. These brands utilized the World Cup’s international platform, implemented effective marketing strategies, and as a result, garnered significant media traffic without spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the seal of “official sponsorship”.


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