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World Cup Sponsorship: Worth the Price of Admission?

With strong content strategies and significant advertising efforts, official World Cup sponsors like Budweiser and Coca-Cola are pulling out all the stops to make sure their claim on the world’s largest sporting event is worth the price.

By sponsoring FIFA and the World Cup, brands have the exclusive ability to incorporate World Cup content, “allowing each brand to distinguish themselves from competing brands in their product category” according to FIFA. For brands like Adidas and McDonalds, this means the exclusive right to share social media content showcasing World Cup athletes and brands and the ability to place their messaging dead center in the global conversation.

Their efforts will, no doubt, be judged against the work of non-sponsors like Nike and Apple’s newly acquired Beats by Dre, each of whom are aiming to capitalize on World Cup conversations without having to pay the giant sponsorship price tag.

And so far, the non-sponsors’ efforts are faring pretty well; we’ve seen plenty of smart content strategies from non-sponsor brands. Here are the two that caught our attention:

Beats by Dre: Game before the Game

Launched a week before the start of the World Cup, Beats by Dre entered the playing field with a beautifully produced five-minute film (long-form video content by our standards) called “The Game before the Game”. With more than 11 million YouTube views, Beats by Dre has depended on smart and specific audience targeting of social ads and word of mouth to promote their content over larger sponsorship contracts.

Nike: The Last Game

Not to be outdone by rival Adidas, Nike rolled out a highly entertaining animation (also five minutes long) called “The Last Game.” As a sponsor of the Brazil National team, the animation showcases Brazilian stars like David Luiz and Neymar, along with some of the world’s other best soccer players, displaying superhero-like moves to save the sport from robots. By producing an animation, Nike created an opportunity to caricature the increasingly commercialized sport and overemphasize the rock star lifestyle and luxuries of professional soccer players.

World Cup 2014

Early results show that the creative strategy and tactics by non-sponsors is paying off. Ad Week asserts that Nike is inches away from eclipsing Adidas’s long-held stake as the world’s biggest soccer brand. Way to Blue research indicates that Nike has garnered 232,000 social mentions in the first week of the World Cup — while official partner Adidas has received only 129,000 mentions.

Regardless of the outcome, this year’s World Cup presents an interesting lesson to Olympic Summer Games sponsors for Rio 2016. With a mere two years separating the global sporting events, Olympic sponsors will be watching eagerly to see how the world responds to marketing efforts in the same host country. At the same time, non-sponsoring brands will be keeping notes on how to follow in Nike’s footsteps.

What do you think? Is sponsorship still worth the $20-$50 billion price tag for the World Cup?