Everything You Need to Know About Marketing During the World Cup

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The FIFA World Cup is unofficially the world's largest sporting event. It's also one of the world's biggest marketing opportunities. Read on to stay in-the-know.

* This is a living article. It will be updated as more information comes to light and appends will be noted where necessary. Our World Cup hub page is available here.


World Cup Overview

The FIFA World Cup is unofficially the world's largest sporting event. Featuring 32 national soccer teams, it captivates an estimated billions of people across the globe during its month-long run. Here is a map of the 32 participants

Key Facts


Organizing body: FIFA 

Timeframe: June 12 - July 13, 2014

US matches: Monday, June 16 against
Ghana, 6pm EST; Sunday, June 22
against Portugal, 6pm EST; Thursday,
June 26 against Germany, 12pm EST 

Television: ESPN/ABC and Univision
(Spanish language)

FIFA Partners: Visa, Adidas,
Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Emirates, Sony

Full Schedule



List of Sponsors

FIFA Social Media



While US audiences refer to world's pastime as soccer, it's called football (or the country's native language equivalent of football) in virtually every other country. American football is called, unsurprisingly, American football in those countries. This year's event will be held in Brazil, the most successful nation in World Cup history, with the most championships (5) and the most games won (67). Matches will be held in 12 different Brazilian cities.

In fact, only eight teams have ever won a World Cup, none of which were from North or Central America, Africa, Asia or the Middle East. This is the first time the World Cup has been in South America since 1978; no European team has ever won a World Cup in South America.

The format

Though the format has changed over time, it's remained mostly the same since 1998 when the field of entrants was increased from 24 to 32. Excluding the host nation, which automatically qualifies, every national team recognized by FIFA must play a number of qualifying matches in order to make the tournament.

Those 32 teams that do qualify are placed into groups of four, where each team plays the other once. The top two teams from each group (16 in total) then go on to play in a single elimination tournament until there is one team left.

The United States

The United States made it to the semifinals in the first World Cup in 1930 (which, to be fair, only featured 13 teams) and then only made it to two more World Cups in the next 59 years. However, since 1990, the U.S. team has qualified for every subsequent World Cup, making it to the round of 16 twice and the quarterfinals once.

Last World Cup, the US secured progress out of its group via an improbable goal in the waning moments of its last match. This was the reaction around the country.

World Cup marketing

Given the global focus on this sporting event, many official sponsors and other companies will attempt to capture the attention of those following along.

TV rights are a big business. ABC/ESPN will broadcast the matches in English and Univision holds Spanish language rights, paying $425 million in 2005 for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, as well as other associated competitions. FIFA negotiates individual rights for the games in each country. Fox and Telemundo will take over in 2018 and 2022, at a cost of $1.25 billion.

Soccer matches usually do not feature timeouts, which makes it a little more difficult for the acquirer of broadcast rights to monetize their investment. While ESPN/ABC/Univision will have traditional spots during preview shows, halftime, and throughout the tournament, sponsors are featured through logo placement on screen during the game.

However, health concerns about the heat during the tournament are so great that FIFA has reserved the right to hold three-minute breaks after 30 minutes intervals so players can rehydrate. This is because teams are only allowed three subs during the entire match and players cannot return once they've been subbed off, leading to concerns about player safety. If that does occur, the broadcasters will have to offer space to FIFA Partners or World Cup Sponsors above other advertisers, according to UK's The Mirror

FIFA has official sponsors in three tiers: FIFA Partners, World Cup sponsors, and National Supporters (which are all Brazilian companies). FIFA describes the difference below:

The six FIFA Partners have the highest level of association with FIFA and all FIFA events as well as playing a wider role in supporting the development of football all around the world, from grassroots right up to the top level at the FIFA World Cup. This allows FIFA and its Partners to form true partnerships, adding great value to the engagement for both sides.

FIFA World Cup Sponsors have rights to the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup on a global basis. The main rights for a sponsor in this tier are brand association, the use of selected marketing assets and media exposure, as well as ticketing and hospitality offers for the events. 

The National Supporter level is the final level of FIFA's sponsorship structure, allowing companies with roots in the host country of each FIFA event to promote an association in the domestic market.


Forbidden Words

• 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil 
• 2014 FIFA World Cup
• FIFA World Cup 
• World Cup 
• 2014 World Cup 
• World Cup 2014 
• Brazil 2014 
• 2014 Brazil 
• Football World Cup 
• Soccer World Cup
• Copa 2014
• Copa do Mundo
• Mundial 2014
• Mundial de Futebol Brasil 2014
• Copa do Mundo 2014
• HOST CITY names + 2014 for each of the host cities (e.g. Rio 2014, etc.) 

Unsurprisingly, FIFA wants to ensure that those companies that pay top dollar for sponsorships are able to do much more than non-participating sponsors. FIFA has a number of guideline documents on its site, including what sponsors receive for their patronage (PDF) and what nonparticipating companies can and cannot do (PDF).

It is well worth reading that documentation, but what it boils down to is this: Only sponsors can use any official imagery and descriptions of the World Cup. Media concerns, suc as Direct Marketing News, can use the official marks as long as it does not use it in any advertising or make implicit any official connection with FIFA or the World Cup.

Adidas is the World Cup sponsor from the apparel world, but Nike obviously can't completely sit out the buildup to the World Cup. As you can see from their respective hype videos below, Nike included a number of global football superstars, but there is no mention of the World Cup or Brazil. Adidas, on the other hand, features the actual ball to be used in the World Cup (which it made) and multiple uses of the official marks.





You might notice in that video a footballer named Neymar, who plays for the Brazilian national team. Nike can—and does—use the Brazilian jersey because Nike is the official sponsor of the Brazilian national team. But, still, no mention of the World Cup.

Social Media

FIFA's official language on World Cup social media efforts is as following:   

FIFA's official logos, symbols and other graphic trade marks may not be used on any social media platform. FIFA's Protected Terms (e.g. the event titles) may not be used to create the impression that a page is officially related to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


This seemingly addresses the creation of social media presences and their design versus specific guidelines regarding posts and content. The most compelling question for brand marketers is whether they can use the official World Cup hashtag #WorldCup. The safest answer is no. A quick scan of recent users of #WorldCup on Twitter was only official sponsors, individuals, and media organizations. 

Although a Dollar General Tweet was shown to me as a promoted Tweet when I search for #WorldCup, you will notice that it does not use the hashtag anywhere in its Tweet.


Tips for safe and effective marketing & social media during the World Cup

1) Unless you are an official sponsor, do not use any of the official marks, logos, or photos. Discuss "football" or "Brasil" and assume your audience will know what you're discussing.

2) If you have any concerns about your marketing plans, discuss with your legal department

3) Best to not use the official #WorldCup hashtag. Each game is likely to have its own unofficial hashtag (like #USAvsPOR). That will be a good way to stay on top of the action.

4) Be helpful to your audience. Send them links to ESPN's schedule and otherwise alert them to when the important matches are on.

5) Assume it's safe to retweet and reply to official FIFA accounts to follow along.

6) Use creative approaches to multimedia that can drum up excitement among your audience. (For example, a graphic of the US flag and a social ball will likely get the message across).

7) Follow other brands to learn best practices and see how they are participating without running afoul of FIFA rules.

* This is a living article. It will be updated as more information comes to light and appends will be noted where necessary. Our World Cup hub page is available here.


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