Firms reap marketing success without a FIFA World Cup partnership

Photo Credit: NIKE
Photo Credit: NIKE

Brands feeling the World Cup frenzy are doing just fine without FIFA as an official partner, with five of the top 11 most-shared soccer ads online coming from non-official sponsors, according to media analytics firm Unruly in an interesting piece at Bloomberg.

The advent of social media and digital marketing have given brands new ways to reach consumers who are foregoing expensive partnerships with FIFA and finding non-traditional pathways to piggyback off of World Cup fever.

Sometimes referred to as ambush marketing, this form of advertising gives brands distribution that circumvents FIFA’s pocketbook – and it appears to be working.


Nike, for example, has generated huge buzz with its “Risk Everything” campaign that features both cartoon and real-life versions of Nike Football’s impressive roster of players. You won’t see any FIFA logos or direct references to the World Cup in the videos, but the overall feel is certainly that of a World Cup advertising campaign.

Adidas, not Nike, paid for the rights to be a World Cup official sponsor.

Beats Electronics burst onto the scene recently with a powerful ad featuring Neymar Jr. and a whole host of other footballers and celebrities. The video so far has generated 7.82 million views on YouTube and has appeared in television spots.

Beats Electronics – recently purchased by Apple for $3 billion – is not an official tournament sponsor.

Samsung, too, has generated strong traction through its #GALAXY11: The Training videos.  Sony, not Samsung, is the official electronics sponsor of the World Cup.


Companies without an official FIFA sponsorship agreement must be careful not to use protected language such as “Brazil 2014” or the image of the World Cup and FIFA logos. But most can invoke the same emotions of the World Cup through various plays on themes, color, sound, and content.

As Unruly’s co-founder Sarah Wood rightfully points out:

While only official sponsors can refer to the World Cup or FIFA in their advertising, no one owns soccer.

In 2013, FIFA received $404 million in international marketing rights, and has a team to monitor advertisers to ensure any non-official sponsor is playing in-bounds with their marketing. If advertisements go too far and infringe on FIFA’s trademark protections, FIFA can sue and has done so in the past.

But is the official partnership standing worth it? According to Unruly’s Wood, producing an ad that goes viral can “be worth more than a sponsorship.”

A real-time list for the most shared soccer viral videos as tracked by Unruly can be found here.

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