Ambush marketing and indirect association is the name of the game whenever a major event like the Fifa World Cup comes around. There are a limited number of official sponsors who are entitled to World Cup licensing, so rivals need to think out of the penalty box to garner eyeballs and promote their products without violating laws. Ambush marketing is an arena that is becoming increasingly difficult to police due to the exponential increase in online marketing and the use of social media. Pepsi has taken on official sponsor Coca Cola by promoting their own 19-strong football “super squad” that includes Pepsi brand ambassadors like Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and German striker Mario Gomez. The “squad” was announced on social media as a teaser to Pepsi’s special commemorative packaging in the lead-up to the event, as well as digital content featuring the players.
Men’s shaving brand, Gillette (not a sponsor), also launched it’s ‘inner steel’ campaign on YouTube two weeks before the World Cup, featuring brand ambassador Lionel Messi, one of soccer’s biggest stars. The video, viewed more than 20 million times, introduces viewers to Gillette’s new razors designed in the colours of footballing nations. Such innovations allow the brand to flirt with the themes and imagery of the World Cup without straying into Fifa territory. For sports brands, an event like the World Cup is unmissable. Adidas is the official sponsor but Nike sponsors 10 teams, including host Brazil. German sports company Puma also has nine team sponsorships. Puma has designed a striking pink-and-blue football shoe which will be worn by their brand endorsers, like Mario Balotelli, a star player for Italy, and Spain’s Cesc Fabregas,. They will wear different colours on each foot, ensuring that the TV cameras focus on the shoes. In marketing, as in soccer, its all about dribbling the ball.