There is no bigger sporting event (when it comes to views) than the FIFA men's World Cup.
The four-week tournament kicked off on November 20, with FIFA estimating that five billion people would tune in to the tournament this winter, compared to 3.5 billion in 2018.
While the location of this year’s Qatar 2022 World Cup makes it the most controversial to date, fans worldwide have been engaging with it—but with a level of trepidation.
It has put sponsors and brands in tricky positions weighing up the opportunity for global exposure against the moral question of whether they should boycott a tournament. One that has allegedly resulted in the deaths of thousands of migrant workers within a nation with an appalling record on LGBTQ+ and human rights.
Or is this, in fact, an opportunity to face some of these issues head-on and use the World Cup as a platform to promote change through creative means?
In this piece, we take a look at the approaches, activations and impact of marketing creativity at the 2022 World Cup.
Hummel x Denmark Shirt Sponsor
Addressing the controversy head on, Hummel had its say early on, announcing it had "toned down" its branding for Denmark's tournament kit in a protest against alleged human rights violations in Qatar.
“We don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people’s lives,” read a statement.
The response was mixed, with many applauding the approach, perhaps helped by the fact they were the first to take action. Others branded it a "stunt" that did not go far enough, instead suggesting a total boycott of this tournament rather than a quiet protest levelled at FIFA and the Qatari government.
Rain Bow Plane
With all eyes on the England team flying out to Qatar, Virgin Atlantic used this moment to fly them in a 'Rain Bow' plane with the LGBTQ+ icon emblazoned on the front. The brand announced, “our Airbus A350, Rain Bow, celebrates diversity and inclusion at Virgin Atlantic every day while flying around the world.”
This a clear and strong sign of solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community; however, as with all these campaigns, it didn't come without its criticism.
The airline had recently suspended its gender-neutral uniform policy to destinations less accepting of non-binary identities (including Qatar).
This meant the crew on the Virgin Atlantic flight that carried the English national football team to the tournament were allowed no such freedom of self-expression themselves.
Tis’ the FIFA World Cup
On the flip side, some brands steered clear of the controversy and focussed on football for the fans. However, the unusual timing of the World Cup, right in the middle of the most significant commercial opportunity of the year, Christmas, undoubtedly put more pressure on brands to cut through the cluttered market and win over football fans and general consumers.
Fox Soccer used its campaign to play on this collision of culture.
We see Father Christmas – played by Mad Men actor Jon Hamm – having to cut his summer holiday short following news from the North Pole that the world's biggest tournament is being moved to the holiday season.
The story continues with the second piece of content, showing Santa back at the North Pole, preparing for a football-inspired Christmas.
Lucozade and Paddy Power followed suit and used similar creative insight to bring the festive period as a moment to merge the two as their unique point of difference.
The Impossible Challenge
Crypto.com, an official sponsor of the World Cup, has taken a social-first approach and signed football-based creator and YouTuber Thogden to take on 'The Impossible Challenge' in front of over 1 million followers.
Again focusing squarely on fandom, laying down the gauntlet, Thogden and his Dad attempt to attend all 64 games in 28 days as they look to cement themselves in the record books whilst highlighting all that is great with this World Cup.
A simple concept that enabled the sponsor to bring to life the tournament through Thogden’s infectious personality whilst keeping the audience engaged with the competition element, speaking directly to an already highly engaged footballing fanbase.
Pepsi Max’s ‘Nutmeg Royale’
Pepsi Max took the traditional marketing approach, leading with an epic film that celebrates all that football has to offer for the fans. Filled with some of the best players in the world, including Leo Messi, Paul Pogba and Ronaldinho, we see them battle it out in an entertaining nutmeg tournament.
Brought to life with a familiar, upbeat soundtrack – this time from Fatboy Slim’s ‘The Rockafeller Skank,’ the hero film is filled with skills, thrills and trick shots.
The drinks brand hasn't shied away from the host nation either, with the nutmeg tournament set in a Middle Eastern setting, using its iconic talent to celebrate the beautiful game and build excitement in the lead-up to the World Cup.
A typically sparky and slick piece of content that we have come to expect from Pepsi featuring some of the biggest names quite literally, gamifying the beautiful game.
To read more about some of the most eye-catching creative work from across the world, the fourth installment of Magpie features, as ever, some choice cuts of our favourite campaigns from the last few months from the team at Hope&Glory.
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