FIFA BATTLES AMBUSH MARKETING AT SOUTH AFRICA WORLD CUP 2010
Blatter, FIFA President
By next week, the curtain will begin to gradually draw on the biggest world sports event and the greatest promotional media that comes up every four years. Indeed, the FIFA World Cup tournament offers the most profound and consistent global media of mass communications from one location within a specific period. This is because, every four years, the passionate and emotional attention of over 35billion people is consistently focused in one particular direction of the world for the period.
In addition to this is the excited local audience who host 32 teams across the globe with an average of 50 people per team, 500 match officials and 10,500 media practitioners. In the case of the South Africa game, 14,500 VIPs and dignitaries are expected to see the opening and closing ceremonies while a projected number of half a million foreign tourists (located outside of Africa) are expected to visit and stay an average of 15 days. They are all looking forward to be entertained and thrilled by the most popular sport on earth. They have come to see the deft moves and the skillful dribbling of their soccer idols as well as the numerous side attractions that accompany the mundial.
It is fact that the World Cup has a gripping effect on the ever increasing world audience. Those who can afford it, want to be there, live. But those who can't, pray and hope that their local television stations are able to latch on to those who could afford to pay for the right to televise the games.
The FIFA World Cup is undoubtedly the most publicized event, from its preliminary stages to the explosive finals. By the time the gradual media hype climaxes into the actual soccer fiesta, the world's attention would have been sufficiently primed and focused on the location of the game. This is what makes the FIFA World Cup matches the greatest media of all. Of course, FIFA knows that big media is good business; big money. And since the advertising industry world over is forever in need of big media to communicate with mass audience, FIFA automatically becomes the beautiful bride of big budget advertisers.
The cost of organizing the tournament is increasing with successive ones that were held. FIFA alone reportedly supported South Africa with 690million pounds (about N158.7billion) representing 80 per cent increase from their financial commitment to the previous tournaments. For FIFA, a profit making private organization to commit that kind of money to the venture, it is only expected that it would make an appreciable return on the investment if it must perpetuate the game without compromising standards. And how does it do that? Mainly through sponsorships and television coverage rights. FIFA is particular about maximizing the profit from the male soccer fiesta because it is the flagship of all its soccer tournaments and of course, the most profitable.
It is estimated that FIFA will make a whopping 2.5billion pounds (about N575billion) from sponsorships alone within the four weeks tournament in South Africa. And in order to realize this, FIFA pruned down the list of sponsors from 15 to six whom are now known as FIFA Partners. Naturally, this privileged categorization attracts higher sponsorship fees, and those in this diamond class include: Coca-Cola, Emirate, Sony, Visa, Adidas and Hyundai. But outside the partners class are other categories and segments of World Cup sponsors who have also paid huge sums of fees to have their brands associate with FIFA icons in order to get the extraordinary exposures that the sport offer. While some these companies and their brands have obtained their sponsorship rights through the front door, others have opted to free-load through the back door without paying FIFA a kobo. This unscrupulous marketing practice also known as Ambush Marketing is one of the issues that the world football governing body is contending with in the ongoing world soccer championship.
Ambush marketing is a campaign that takes place around an event but does not involve payment of a sponsorship fee to the owners of the event. It is a deliberate attempt by a business or brand to associate itself with an event (often a sporting event) in order to gain some of the benefits associated with being an official sponsor without incurring the costs of sponsorship.
Even though some see it as a marketing strategy for low budget advertisers, but what it essentially does is to undermine the sponsorship activities of the brand that has the legal right to sponsor the event and deny the owner the legitimate income that would have been realized from the ambushing brand or company.
The case of ambush marketing was first noticed and officially documented at the FIFA World Cup game in 1994 with 258 cases across 39 countries. By 1998 tournament in France, there were 773 cases across 47 countries and by 2006 edition, 3,300 cases of rights infringements were uncovered. Just a few weeks after South Africa won the hosting rights, 127 cases of infringements were detected, an indication of what FIFA should expect when the tournament finally commences.
In anticipation of the violation of FIFA's sponsorship rights, the South African Parliament enacted a law protecting the right of sponsors but from what we have seen so far, it has not discouraged the diehard ambushers. Just before the game was kicked off, the South African police reportedly clashed with street vendors and had to stop unauthorized corporate entities that were surreptitiously beginning to associate their brand personalities with the FIFA World Cup symbols.
But perhaps the most daring of them all was the case of Bavaria, a Dutch beer company, which got 36 young pretty women to wear tight dresses in their orange corporate colour and sat them on the front row in the match between Netherlands and Denmark. These pretty ladies cheered frantically to attract the attention of the crowd and camera lenses. The intension was obvious as 36 pretty women couldn't have coincidentally worn the same kind of dress, in the same colour and sitting together in the same vantage position where they'll get a good dose of cameras' attention. FIFA was not fooled. It was clear to discerning eyes that the sponsor of those ladies was out to reap where he did not sow, so FIFA promptly ordered the police to get them out of the stadium. The world soccer governing body has vowed to take a legal action against the beer company.
Apart from hosting countries, FIFA, through its rights protection team, is more resolved than ever before to collaborate with other countries to clamp down on those who seek to take unfair advantage of its events and associated symbols.
In Nigeria, we tend to take ambush marketing for granted because of our penchant to go to Asia and fake virtually everything under the sun including intellectual property. Go to our local markets, you'll find all the European clubs' jerseys and their branded items there. If the World Cup were to hold in Nigeria, FIFA would have left in anger because our local import merchants would have flooded every city and hamlet in the country with fake FIFA branded items from Taiwan and China, four years ahead of the game.
Before Nigeria crashed out of the tournament, there were a number of solidarity adverts in the newspapers and television with the world cup symbols. I doubt they have the necessary authorization to use those symbols.
Check out our trade fairs. After companies might have paid huge sums of money to participate and sponsor Special Days where the organizers are expected to give them prominent attention, you discover that junior officers and clerks in the organizing Chambers of Commerce would collect pittances, far less than the official participation fees, to allow their friends and associates to come into the venue and display smuggled and substandard products thereby undermining exposure of big organizations that have invested so much to participate in the exhibition.
Ambush marketing, if not tightly regulated, will discourage genuine and big time sponsors from partnering event owners. Event business relies mainly on sponsorships and sundry rights patenting to make the bulk of its revenue and profit, not the gate takings.