Argentina won the FIFA World Cup.

Qatar crowned one winner, except it wasn’t the only one.

Our job is to deliver what winning means for fans, brands and media. The trophy can be found in exposure, engagement, community or business. Commonly, a combination of them.

What makes it more interesting, the definition of winning changes over time.

Budweiser, World Cup sponsor since 1986, saw how alcohol sales in stadiums were banned just two days before the start. A massive setback in beer sales that can lead to a multimillion-dollar discount with FIFA, according to The Sun, and to a clear win in brand relevance.

From selling beer to celebrating beer.

As “Winning country gets the Buds”, Budweiser will champion the winners’ glory and will elevate product perception. Besides, Leo Messi, Budweiser ambassador and World Cup Hero, was awarded the Budweiser Player of the Match.

After a UEFA Women’s Euro and a FIFA Women’s World Cup, Qatar 2022 was the third major tournament I was professionally involved, this time on the side of a participant member association. Here are some insights from a marketing and business perspective.

While remote sponsors’ marketing teams worked to execute the plans built over the last months, it was the mission of the on-site staff to excel at the basics first: tickets delivery, institutional meetings, follow-up meetings and stadium logistics and transport.

Traditional and simple? Yes, but definitely not easy to turn them into incredible moments in the middle of a World Cup.

As most of commercial partners invite top management executives to live the tournament first-hand, it is fundamental to focus on the relationship both in the day-to-day, training sessions and matches. In parallel, activation teams at each HQ tried to maximize ROI.

Bonus: I had the privilege to meet, again, one of the most influential sports marketers. His brilliant sense of humour is certainly one of his greatest tools for convincing and turning hard negotiations into light talks.

High-level executives don’t travel to fill a checklist of deliverables, but to fully immerse into the national team and the event. Introducing members of the delegation, providing information and caring of each meet & greet become priceless memories.

Who wouldn’t want to know about the team star’s injury?

Legal teams are also vital for sponsors, as their competitors constantly look for creative ways to leverage tournament and FA brands, symbols and context. Making partners feel safe from ambush initiatives is key for the partnership.

Beyond the pitch, it is interesting to develop sources of engagement, as football will not always be relevant or positive. For example, an influencers house in Doha turned out to be an entertainment and network hub, providing organic digital presence for sponsors and reinforcing brand positioning.

The result? Helping in welcoming more than four million new followers on Instagram.

In regards to fan experience, FIFA+ app provided fans in Qatar and at-home with an enriched experience through augmented reality, stats, heatmaps, insights, camera angles and replays. At an offline level, the city of Doha was incredibly themed in centric regions, even with drone shows.

As an area for improvement, some metro stations and uber drop-off areas were located too far from stadiums, needing fans to walk over 45 minutes in some occasions. While the format of a unique host city provided unprecedented comfort, access to some stadiums could have been easier.

On the other hand, the FIFA Fan Festival, located at the heart of the city and receiving nearly 2 million visitors in total, established as a centre for culture and entertainment, hosting 100 hours of live music and artist such as Sean Paul and Calvin Harris. A family-friendly environment with innovative activities from Hyundai, Qatar Airways, Adidas and Coca-Cola.

At a management level, a World Cup requires the best possible result with the maximum practicality, as new challenges need to be solved at any time. For instance, offering exclusive guided visits to the training centre for main partners.

Mistakes are expected, but so does quick and effective reaction.

As the former Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque said, “treating everyone equally is sometimes the greatest injustice”. The same principle can be applied to the way we treat fans and sponsors.

We will see if the 2018 record of 7.5 billion engagements across all FIFA digital platforms will be broken.

For now, it will be each one’s job to assess a potential win in Qatar.

Now, headed to Australia and New Zealand 2023.

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