What goes online

How’s this for a slogan? "With the sweat of Taeguk Warriors, with the roar of 50 million Koreans…"

How’s this for a slogan? "With the sweat of Taeguk Warriors, with the roar of 50 million Koreans…"

If you hurry online, you can vote on this to be the Hyundai-sponsored motto for Korea Republic when it takes to the field for the 2006 World Cup.

The story seems as old as the game. The rest of the globe roars for the World Cup (as it approaches every four years), while the United States, sated on its own sports stateside entertainment, shrugs. But that stereotype is changing.

"Clearly the US has some catching up to do with the rest of the world," Nate Tobecksen, Nike media relations manager, told PRWeek in March.

As the American soccer team has ascended from insignificance to quarterfinalist (save for a disappointing 1998 campaign when it finished 31st of 32 teams on scoring aggregate), marketers tied to the football world are starting to make a major play for American consumers online. Manhattan residents took to the bars before work to watch the USA games live as the team played in the 2002 World Cup, held in Korea and Japan. Midfield Landon Donovan and goalkeeper Tim Howard (who plays professionally for England juggernaut Manchester United) are becoming stars on this side of the pond. When interest in a sport accumulates, you soon find the proverbial sponsorship ramp-up.

While American-based companies have been sponsoring the World Cup for years now, they're making a huge play towards attaching their names to the tournament online. Given the fact that some of the matches will take place during the US fans' work day, they will be hitting any Web site that can provide them with updates.

Yahoo is powering the Fifa World Cup site, providing links to other sponsors' pages with various games, activities, or exclusive content. McDonald's, telecoms company Avaya, and Coca-Cola all are sponsoring World Cup-themed games and entertainment online. For instance, Coca-Cola filmed the journey when it took the actual cup on a world tour.

Hyundai's aforementioned campaign, where visitors can vote on their favorite teams' slogan, is another entertainment running on that Yahoo site. While Hyundai is apparently ebullient about American's growing fondness of soccer, it is not convinced of the team's prowess: one of the three choices is "It's not about winning... it's about love of the sport." If only that honesty was extended to all nations: (Argentina, our football team is the only thing ascending faster than the inflation of our currency!)

Avaya is running a countdown on its Web site, worldcup.avaya.com, where it provides news updates and information about the teams. Other highlights include games and scoring updates to run during actual World Cup matches.

While official sponsorship relationships limit what non-sponsor companies can do on the Cup site, online opportunities for those corporations are abound.

Nike, who has historically trailed rival Adidas, in the soccer market, launched joga.com, an invitation-only social networking site as part of a broader "Joga Bonito" campaign (Play Beautifully) that celebrated the skilled playing sure to be on display at the World Cup in Germany.

As Rafat Ali, editor of PaidContent.org writes, "Keep in mind that the football World Cup is being held later this year, and Yahoo is the official partner, along with Adidas. So this is a way for the respective rivals, Google and Nike, to develop buzz the unofficial way."

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