The world will be going football crazy this summer. It happens once every four years, but for three weeks, from 14 June to 15 July, the 2018 World Cup is taking place, this time in Russia, and everyone will be talking about it. People will be congregating in front of screens in pubs and living rooms across the land to dispute the dodgy decisions, pontificate about the pundits, bewail their team’s woeful ineptitude or celebrate its stupendous success (perhaps unlikely in England’s case, but let’s hold fast to the dream for now), so surely you should be tapping into this (Mexican) wave of emotion and interest to promote your brand?
Well, yes, the World Cup is undoubtedly a golden (boot of an) opportunity for prize promotions, but you need to be aware that FIFA is extremely wise to ambush marketing and has a rather strict and lengthy (it runs to 30 pages) set of rules about how its ‘official marks’ can be used. Companies which are not official sponsors, or ‘commercial affiliates’ as FIFA calls them, may not engage in promotional activities which imply a ‘commercial association’ – and that’s the key phrase – between their company or brand and the World Cup as an event or indeed FIFA itself.
This means that if you’re running any kind of promotion that seeks to take advantage of the football fever surrounding the World Cup, you can’t actually mention the World Cup, you can’t use any of the World Cup logos or branding, and you can’t offer tickets to World Cup games as prizes. That sounds pretty restrictive doesn’t it, but before you relegate your plans to the bin and head dejectedly to the changing room, as long as you adopt a tactical approach you can still take advantage of the buzz around the 2018 World Cup without incurring a red card. Let me give you some pointers.
The language of football
Playing, shooting, scoring, winning, a must-win game of two halves – there’s a rich vocabulary of football-related terminology which can be employed to great effect for promotions. It’s all about making the connection implicit rather than explicit, and you can use generic football images, pick up on team colours or give away related products – balls, shirts, scarves – just as long as they don’t feature FIFA trademarks or make specific reference to the World Cup.
The host country
The last World Cup was hosted by Brazil, which had easy associations with parties and a carnival atmosphere. Russia is a gift location for vodka and caviar companies. Other alcohol and snack brands may find Communism and the Cold War slightly more difficult to work with, but if you put your Russian thinking cap on (you know, the one with the furry ear flaps) I’m sure you can come up with a clever and appropriate association to build a promotion around. Bears? Balalaikas? Matryoshka dolls? OK, it needs some work, but you could certainly give away a holiday to Russia, as long as you don’t make the World Cup tie-in obvious.
The participating countries
There are 32 countries which have qualified for this year’s World Cup. Italy isn’t one of them, so you might need to re-think that pizza party promotion idea, but flags, food and internationalism in all its many guises are fair game.
Whether they’re watching from the stands or their front rooms, it’s not a footballing extravaganza without the fans. FIFA recognises this and encourages the public to celebrate the World Cup and support their national or any other team, so as long as they don’t look ‘official’, promotions that draw on the passion and knowledge of supporters won’t be ruled offside.
FIFA actually recommends you get independent advice to make sure your promotion doesn’t cross the commercial association line, and Prizeology is totally on the ball when it comes to compliance, so if you’re planning a World Cup-related promotion you definitely want us on your team. And if you’re going global we can handle the international dimension, too, so do give us a shout. Right, just need my wallchart now…
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and a National Trading Standards Scams Team Scambassador (and a long-suffering Arsenal fan).