The FIFA World Cup comes around once every 4 years, and every 4 years the media and advertising world goes crazy. Conventional wisdom gets thrown out the window and advertisers latch on to the tournament no matter what product or service they’re trying to sell. I’ve burrowed through the archives to find the most strange and eye-catching campaigns of recent years. Here’s part 1 of World Cup Madness:
Pringles’ Size 700 Football Boot (2014)
Have you seen a football boot made out of 1,500 of Pringles cans and driving it through London on the back of a lorry recently? Me neither, but it happened, and it’s part of a PR campaign by Pringles to “create the ultimate supersized talisman to bring our players luck and influence their performance this summer”. Apparently Pringles surveyed England fans about their matchday superstitions during a World Cup and responses ranged from drinking from the same pint glass to always sitting on the same spot on the sofa. So in response they made a 490kg football boot for fans to “superstitiously rub”.
The boot toured England after being blessed by the Rev. Mark Townsend outside Wembley Stadium and will make its home in Manchester’s football museum during the World Cup. It’s most definitely a stunt for the sake of a stunt and has absolutely no common thread with the Pringles brand whatsoever, but it’s generated a lot of press and online buzz. I can’t wait to see the size of the boot Pringles parade during Euro 2016.
Irn-Bru Tries to Breed a World Cup Winning Team (2010)
Let’s be honest – Scotland aren’t going to be winning the World Cup anytime soon. Irn-Bru (Scotland’s most popular fizzy drink) knew this too, so it decided to do something about it. By placing lonely hearts ads in press and outdoor around Rio, it hoped to show Brazilian women that they could “enhance the Scottish footballing gene pool” by making “beautiful babies” with Scotsmen.
Irn-Bru predicts the Scottish line-up of the 2034 World Cup Final.
The campaign went viral and still pops up around the internet today. This might be because Irn-Bru calculated that if the “beautiful babies” are created now they’ll be in the prime of their careers for the 2034 World Cup, giving the idea a huge shelf life. It’s a very risky and strange campaign, but it’s so absurd that it kind of works. It won Irn-Bru a gold prize at the 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival and was created on a budget of just £150,000, increasing YOY sales of Irn-Bru in Scotland by 8%. For comparison, Coca Cola spent £3.4m in the same period with minimal change to their market share.
Bavaria Advertises from the Seats of a World Cup Stadium (2010)
During the 2010 World Cup, Dutch brewery Bavaria hired 36 women dressed entirely in orange to sit in the stands during the Netherlands’ match against Norway. Naturally they drew the attention of the in-stadium TV cameras, and match commentators all pointed out the great time that they seemed to be having. However, the world’s media was at the time unaware that it was all a publicity stunt. After the women left the stadium, two were arrested for breaching the rules of the tournament and FIFA announced that it would “all available legal remedies” against Bavaria for organising “unlawful commercial activities”
So why the huge fuss? It’s because Budweiser paid FIFA millions to be the official beer sponsor of the 2010 World Cup and FIFA wanted to make sure it was seen to be doing all it could to protect that exclusivity. However, by creating a furore around the ambush marketing stunt, FIFA simply gave it the fuel to keep burning brightly for longer and longer. The stunt was a legal risk for Bavaria, but it provoked exactly the kind of reaction that it was hoping to get.
It’s partly the reaction of football’s governing body that means the Bavaria stunt is still mentioned throughout the media world today – a proverbial own goal. Search terms for Bavaria beer rocketed during the tournament and awareness of the brand worldwide went skywards. Maybe we’ll see more examples of ambush marketing at this year’s World Cup, but not if FIFA has anything to do with it.