Guerilla brand marketing at the World Cup

The Greek army was a terrible bunch of  civil servants when I served.  The fact that I had experience from the British Territorials only made it worse.  From a well disciplined, goals oriented, clear management situation in South England to a bunch of fat, always smoking group of imbeciles in various camps around Greece.  I quickly made up my mind: if there is ever a war in Greece I will leave for the mountains and do guerrilla resistance.  In fact I even have a Band of Brothers, people with a similar view on it, and we have a secret rendez vous location on a Greek mountain in the event of war.

Checking out the buzz reports for the first three weeks of the World Cup, to my great pleasure it wasn’t Sony that topped the charts of risers. Sure, in the UK and Germany it was second and third fastest riser. Visa did well in UK and US (third biggest rise). And Emirates did well in Germany (second) and UK (fifth) which makes sense considering their relatively less known brand in these regions.

But the real winner was Nike. Topping UK and Germany charts with +6.8 and +3 points respectively and a very decent + 0.7 in the difficult US market. And they aren’t even an official sponsor!

It just goes to show that careful media planning and correct brand positioning can work wonders. The world cup worked for Nike because they had aligned themselves well. If you are about to spend a lot on major sports events you need to carefully think what you want to achieve.

Nike’s sales in the run up to the World Cup were up a whopping 39% whereas Adidas (official sponsor) came nowhere close in growth. Nike did the things like opening stores in Soweto that double as AIDS testing centers or installing massive TV screens in town. It is an 11Million football shoe and apparel world market and Nike has firmly set it’s sights on the developing market which is growing by 30% year on year. It will demand more than 250 new Nike stores around the planet and renewed efforts online which now accounts for just 5% of their sales. Though small relative to Nike’s overall sales, they are using the football category to penetrate and will sell Converse and their other brands on the back of their success.

Nike and Adidas battle it out at every World Cup.  In 2006 Adidas had again cornered the official side of things and Nike’s digital strategy fell flat.  A much vaunted collaboration with Google for was a total failure.  By luck a Puma sponsored team won and saved Nike’s sales.   (Though Adidas always has more teams wearing their shirts.)  This time around it was a campaign called “write the future” on facebook which worked though.  Great content, great execution.    And TV ads to support it.  So the World Cup related buzz went to Nike.  30 vs 14% according to Nielsen.  Nike is embracing full interactivity in all their activities, encouraging participation at every level.   It’s latest shoe comes with a unique code which unlocks training programs which you can even download with an app to your phone.

The buzz measurement wars will continue.  It is a pretty hazy metric still.   My mountain guerillas may be the only Greek army standing in the event of war and sometimes it just takes well designed orange football shoes to sell…

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