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The big kick. How brands are scoring on football’s biggest stage

Even before the first goal could be scored at FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar dealt a big blow to brand Budweiser – no alcohol at the stadium, it said. Definitely an awkward moment for the official beer partner to the tournament, which had reportedly spent $75 million on the association and the spirits of fans and marketers plunged.

On the field too, it’s been a topsy turvy tournament with fancied Argentina losing to Saudi Arabia and Germany to Japan. Although early days, one wonders if this is going to be a challenging outing for brands. Back home, edtech brand Byjus got immense flak for signing up Lionel Messi as brand ambassador for its education-for-all initiative even as it was laying off people. And when Argentina lost, Byjus got booed further.

However, marketers shrug these off and are confident that Indian brands will score a hit at the event. “Football in India is picking up in a big way with the GenZ population showing huge interest in it, though cricket is bigger with IPL stealing the show. However, we are talking about the FIFA World Cup – an event that doesn’t happen every year. So yes, Indian brands should have a decent outing with it. Real interest peaks after the knockout stage. I dont think Argentina’s shock defeat will hamper the viewership,” says Sanjeev Jasani, COO, Cheil India

Milking the association

India’s dairy major Amul, which has struck partnerships with the national teams of Argentina and Portugal as regional sponsors, is pretty gungho. Says Jayen Mehta, COO, GCMMF (Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation – Amul), “FIFA is the most watched football event and Messi and Ronaldo are the most popular football stars in India, commanding a strong following in the country. We decided to ink partnerships directly with these national football associations as a regional sponsor with a focus on fan-engagement in India.”

As a part of the association, Amul can use the player images in its communication and packaging. “We are launching special edition packs of coffee, buttermilk, lassi, ice creams and dairy whiteners. We are also building creatives and communication featuring the players and leveraging this association to strengthen the equity of milk – world’s original energy drink,” says Mehta. The brand, which is milking the association to the hilt is also a key broadcast sponsor on Sports18 and JioCinema for the FIFA telecast.

Brands such as Mahindra, Visa, SBI, Intel, Black & White, CakeZone and Amazon Pay are also betting big on FIFA and are key broadcast sponsors that have associated with Sports18 and JioCinema for FIFA.

Getting eyeballs

Football has already grown to be the second most watched sport among Indians after cricket and given that timings of the matches at Qatar are most convenient for Indian viewers, brands sponsoring the telecast and digicast feel they are on to a good thing.

Multiplex chain Inox Leisure, which is showcasing the FIFA World Cup matches in select screens, in a host of cities ranging from metros such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, to smaller towns like Goa, Bhubaneswar, Indore, Siliguri, and Thrissur, is pretty upbeat too.

Says Alok Tandon, Chief Executive Officer, INOX Leisure Ltd, “We look at such screenings as unique and innovative brand engagement initiatives. Aligning our brand to such iconic sporting occasions with fervent fan bases provides us an opportunity to strengthen our bond and enhance the audiences’ loyalty towards us. We are expecting a great turnout,” he added.

Riding piggyback

Several brands which have no direct associations are riding piggyback on the football world cup rather cleverly. Take Kalyan Jewellers for example. It has launched a brand-new football-themed jewellery – Es Vida, which pays tribute to the sport. It has roped in ace woman footballer, Sweety Devi, to don a football pendant. Talking about this unique football memorabilia that is focused on India and the Middle East, Ramesh Kalyanaraman, Executive Director, Kalyan Jewellers said, “We believe that these all-new soccer-inspired designs will be something that the football community would love to wear and flaunt, as they celebrate this game season. In a brand first, we have associated with India’s football icons for the Es Vida campaign and we hope that fans will embrace Es Vida.”

Or take telecom brand Vi which is putting out international roaming packs focused on football fans travelling to Qatar. It has created a special communication around these, pointing out the advantages of the huge data bundled with the Vi IR pack that allows users to stream live from the event and make posts on social media.

Veteran marketer and avid sports buff, Lloyd Mathias, is very confident that Indian brands will have a great outing at the football World Cup. “Unlike cricket, football is not a cluttered space for Indian brands. It has also got a more mass global reach. And we are only in the initial stages yet. The viewership build up will be huge as the tournament progresses,” he says. But he points out, it all hinges on how the brand plays it – the creative it puts out!

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