A communications game plan for the World Cup

For one of the world's premier events, a solid marketing communications strategy has never been more important.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be an event of firsts: the first time the tournament has been hosted by an African nation; the first time social media is the medium of preference for fans to connect around this global event; perhaps the first time your brand is aligned with the sport. For one of the world's premier events, a solid marketing communications strategy has never been more important. Below are a few points to help marketers formulate a winning game plan around World Cup:

PR activation: mandatory, not optional. Sports sponsorship is no longer about hosting top clients and media contacts at hospitality tents. If your brand does not create an integrated communications strategy and PR campaign to support its sponsorship, you've lost an opportunity to motivate consumers, evolve brand perception and most importantly, the opportunity to maximize your investment.

Social media: the ultimate game changer. It's hard to believe that at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Facebook was dominated by students, and Twitter and online videos were still in their infancy. In 2010, World Cup is expected to shatter records as the most-viewed and discussed event ever via social media platforms. Successful marketers will leverage their sponsorship assets to help World Cup fans connect with their teams, with each other, and ultimately, with sponsoring brands.

Go global and emphasize the United States. The World Cup is a truly global event; more than 26 billion people watched the 2006 tournament according to FIFA. Passion and interest for the sport never goes dark. World Cup is best leveraged by brands willing to make the commitment—to communicate on a global scale, on an ongoing basis. Equally as important, the United States should not be ignored. 2006 domestic viewership jumped 38.9% from 2002 according to Sponsorship Intelligence, fueled extensively by the Latino market. Marketers can still leverage fan passion and achieve quality consumer engagement in the States, often with less competitive clutter.

World Cup 2010 is on its way to making history. Whether you're an official sponsor or even indirectly involved in the sport, it presents unique opportunities to connect with a very large and passionate audience. If you're on the field, ask yourself: Do I have a fully integrated communications strategy and long-term game plan needed to score?

Bret Werner is managing partner of Catalyst Public Relations.

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