Landon Donovan left off U.S. World Cup team, left in commercials

(Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Jurgen Klinsmann gave everyone a few surprises by announcing the 23 members of U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) for the World Cup in Brazil. The first surprise was how early he announced his team, only 10 days after naming the 30-man roster. The second part was leaving Landon Donovan, a World Cup veteran and face of the U.S. National Team, off the roster.

Since Landon is one of the most recognizable USMNT players, major brands signed him to endorse its products. First, there is Samsung:

Gatorade recently launched a commercial that also heavily features Donovan:

If that wasn’t enough for Gatorade, a Landon Donovan ad was directly below the announcement of the 23-man roster on the USMNT website:


There are only a few official FIFA World Cup sponsors. Most brands interact with the event through a form of guerrilla marketing. These brands often have an endorsement deal with some of the major stars playing for their home country. By picking the correct players, brands can receive a halo effect during the World Cup, without shelling out the sponsorship dollars to be an official partner.

By choosing Landon Donovan for the commercials, the brands took a major gamble that he would make the USMNT roster. They can now either develop expensive new marketing plans, or just deal with the fact that its main endorser will not be making the trip to Brazil. If there’s a silver lining for these brands, it’s that they have extra time to figure out a contingency plan given that Klinsmann didn’t wait until the June 2 deadline to announce his final roster.

So who wins with its advertising? No big surprise, one of the best marketers in the world: Nike chose USMNT goalie Tim Howard for this amazing commercial:

Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.

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