How World Cup sponsors plan to keep the soccer buzz going

World Cup sponsors such as Hyundai, Coca-Cola, and Emirates tell PRWeek how they are keeping the ball rolling on soccer sponsorships after the tournament's end.

Hyundai's Because Fútbol campaign
Hyundai's Because Fútbol campaign

For a month, the World Cup broke viewership and social media records, making it an ideal platform for brand promotion and real-time marketing. Now that the tournament is over, sponsors are betting they can continue to leverage soccer’s growing popularity in the US.

Hyundai, one of the six official FIFA partners, is continuing to use the creative elements it unveiled in its World Cup campaign this year, says David Matathia, director of marketing for the car company. The five other official FIFA partners are Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Sony, and Visa.

In its Because Fútbol campaign, which launched at the beginning of June, Hyundai focused on how the World Cup brings fans together for 30 days. It included YouTube videos, a Tumblr page, and a billboard in Times Square. The brand also asked fans to use the hashtag #BecauseFutbol to share their passions online.

"We’ve been keenly monitoring the growth, popularity, and participation in soccer, and lots of statistics show it being one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. Major League Soccer’s attendances are rising season over season while some other major leagues are struggling," adds Matathia.

He says that the automaker, which is planning to partner with FIFA for the next World Cup in four years, will keep those creative elements alive even though the tournament has ended.

The company plans to place media buys during the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League seasons and keep the Tumblr account updated with fresh content. The #BecauseFutbol hashtag will also live on, says Matathia.

Hyundai plans to keep an eye on soccer in the US to look at "opportunities to get involved in a bigger way in the future," he adds.

Fellow official partner Coca-Cola has had a longstanding commitment to soccer – at least compared with many US-based brands – with its grassroots, youth-focused program Copa Coca-Cola debuting in 1998.

The program is still active in 60 markets with 1.3 million players globally. This year, the company held its first international camp in São Paulo from June 10 to 15 featuring 123 participants from 28 markets, says Alison Brubaker, senior manager of global brand and marketing communications for Coca-Cola.

"We really want to put some effort behind making sure that the 2014 and 2015 season is really strong for Copa Coca-Cola while we’re still riding that World Cup high focused on soccer," she explains.

While Coke is happy with the scale of the program and how many teens it has reached, it has room to grow, says Brubaker. Copa-Coca Cola is active in 60 markets, but the company itself does business in 207. Each region conducts its own PR and social media efforts for the tournaments and games, she explains.

Coca-Cola is also focused on the UEFA European Championships, which will take place in 2016, as well as the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Four years from now, the brand will stage another international Copa camp for teens.

Airline Emirates is another longtime supporter of soccer, supporting the New York Cosmos in the US, as well as Arsenal, AC Milan, and Real Madrid in Europe, a company representative said via email.

"Our commitment to the sport of soccer is strong, and we have deep ties in this space and do not have plans for this commitment to die down post-World Cup," the representative added.

The company, which launched a campaign called All Time Greats during the World Cup, has a number of soccer-related initiatives planned, such as hosting a private scrimmage between AC Milan and the New York Cosmos on Wednesday. It will also hold a kids clinic on Friday, where Arsenal players will take children through soccer drills and sign autographs.

On July 29, Emirates will hosts guests at the Dallas Cotton Bowl, where Real Madrid will play AS Roma in the Guinness International Champions Cup. The airline is also sponsoring the competition, which will kick off on Thursday in Toronto and end in Miami on August 4.

McDonald’s, which is an official FIFA World Cup sponsor, began associating with the quadrennial tournament in 1994. It will continue to use soccer as a platform to engage fans worldwide, says John Lewicki, senior director of global alliances at the fast-food giant. The fast food brand has signed up to sponsor the World Cup through 2022, he adds.

In addition to its World Cup involvement, McDonald’s is also a sponsor of the US men’s and women’s national team. One of its major soccer-related initiatives is the player escort program for children.

This year, the longstanding effort brought more than 1,400 children from all over the world to Brazil for the tournament to walk out on the field with players before a match. Going forward, Lewicki says McDonald’s will continue the player escort program for upcoming US men’s and women’s friendlies.

McDonald’s, which also had its largest World Cup campaign in its history this year with its french-fry-package-design effort, will soon begin readying itself for other major sporting events, says Lewicki.

He explains that the brand’s sports-sponsorship schedule is cyclical, as it is preparing for the NFL and NHL seasons to begin in the fall as well as Olympic Games in 2016 and 2018.

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