Russia 2018 is officially in the books. With the return of club soccer just around the corner, the global perspective of the sport will shift back to following the individual leagues as the quest to capture championship gold on the local and regional level resumes.
Yet, for the partnerships involved, the end of the World Cup does not signal the end of their push for international exposure. Rather, this is the perfect opportunity for sponsors to increase exposure and gain steam ahead of the beautiful game’s return to the global stage for Qatar 2022.
Regional Tournaments Serve As Perfect Platform to Gain Exposure
The casual soccer fan may see the World Cup as a unique international tournament that showcases the world’s biggest stars, all in one tournament. And while this is definitely the case, it is not the only tournament that pits international rivals against one another. In the next three years, sponsors will have the opportunity to become entranced in a number of regional championship chases including the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup (North and Central America), 2019 Copa America (South America, also including Qatar and Japan as invited teams), UEFA Euro 2020 (Europe), and the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup (qualifying teams from throughout the world).
Take the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, for example. Given that the USMNT returns back to meaningful international competition as defending Gold Cup champions, it is paramount that sponsors capitalize on the growing popularity of soccer amongst U.S. fans. Toyota returns as the Official Motor Vehicle of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. While the company has already made an impact within American sedan buying preferences, it is aiming to have additional advertising that will help to recreate promotion for its other models such as the Toyota Tundra.
Yet the CONCACAF Gold Cup isn’t just limited to American fans. The Mexican National Team has an electric fan-base that has just as much of a presence within the United States as the USMNT does.
Since 2008, they have played a whopping 61 out of 76 friendlies throughout the United States as opposed to back home in the rabid atmosphere of Estadio Azteca. This is key as all of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup matches will be played within the United States. Enter Modelo, the Mexico City-based beer brand under the Grupo Modelo brewery. Modelo is already set to return as the Official Beer of the CONCACAF Gold Cup for a second tournament in a row. By continuing to exert its presence upon the North America-based tournament, Modelo will look to market towards the ever-growing Mexican fan base as well as the growing collective of American soccer fans.
In addition to Toyota and Modelo, the CONCACAF Gold Cup will allow brands such as Nike and Scotiabank to step out from the summer shadows cast by their Russia 2018 sponsoring competitors (Adidas and Wanda Group, respectively). The CONCACAF Gold Cup is just one example of the many international tournaments that are available for sponsors to capitalize on within the coming years.
Qatar Airways Will Be Everywhere
Qatar Airways has served as the Official Partner and the Official Airline of FIFA since 2017. This status was capitalized on during Russia 2018 and will remain in place through Qatar 2022. The airline is a global entity as it is expected to reach an audience of over two billion people for every FIFA-based tournament with the next major tournament being the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019. With the company becoming one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, it is a natural fit for the beautiful game as it continues to grow in popularity.
“FIFA is delighted to partner with the world’s fastest-growing airline, Qatar Airways,” said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. “Known for introducing industry firsts, Qatar Airways is an ideal partner for FIFA as we prepare for the first-ever World Cup in the Gulf Region.”
Samoura’s last point is the most significant. Qatar Airways will, without a doubt, be the most visible and most natural-fitting brand at Qatar 2022. The brand activations will be naturally ingrained within every piece of signage, every integration, and every mention of the brand itself.
While Qatar 2022 will be the marquee opportunity for the airline to showcase its marketing reach, it will have plenty of opportunities to advertise leading up to it.
In addition to receiving signage, activation opportunities, and branding rights at both the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 and the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup, the airline will expand its global reach by launching new destinations throughout the world. Many of these new destinations are in countries where soccer is either the sport of choice or is on the rise. These include Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), the United States (San Francisco), and Chile (Santiago). The airline will be able to get out in front of soccer fans to directly expose them to their ever-growing brand.
An additional caveat is that the airline’s brand awareness will remain ever-present throughout the four-year World Cup drought as it is the jersey partner of FC Barcelona, one of the most recognizable football clubs in the world. A constant fixture in international club competition, as well as boasting global superstar Lionel Messi, Barcelona (and all of its partners) are consistently recognized throughout the soccer landscape. While the airline will not want to infuse World Cup messaging within the Catalonia club, it is an added bonus that soccer fans around the world will recognize Qatar Airways leading up to Qatar 2022.
2018 World Cup Partners Maintaining Momentum for Return in 2022
Many worldwide brands including Adidas, Coca-Cola, and VISA, among others, are returning as FIFA Partners for Qatar 2022, it will be paramount for these brands to create new ways to increase their brand awareness in the eyes of the worldwide audience.
Even with having the FIFA Partner distinction associated with them, this may be easier said than done. Take Hyundai/Kia Motors (Official Automotive Partner), for example. With Fox taking over the FIFA broadcast rights throughout 2026, non-FIFA Partners — such as Volkswagon — were able to utilize ambush marketing throughout FOX’s broadcast in order to turn attention away from Hyundai/Kia Motors.
This is just one example of how non-FIFA partners can still have an impact within the worldwide soccer sponsorship realm. So the onus falls on the FIFA partners to come up with creative strategies on how they will involve their brand leading up to major tournaments.
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Sure, Adidas creates and designs the Official Match Ball that is utilized in every FIFA World Cup and Coca-Cola sponsors the World Rankings for both men’s and women’s national teams throughout each year. Note that this is not to imply that this is all that these partners do to activate and increase their brand engagement during the time where international play is dormant. However, it does raise the question of how these brands can increase their presence during the busy club season.
Though it’s a full four years until partners have the opportunity to unveil new activations during Qatar 2022, they are officially on the clock to begin innovating.