Three awards for the best brand activations.

By Manoj Raheja

When the World Cup kicked off on June 12th, we shared a point of view on the growing trend of ambush marketing and cited examples where brands should have either gotten a red card for ambushing, or be applauded for bending it like Beckham to get around the FIFA sponsorship rules and score big.  With the World Cup champions crowned on the field and the Golden Boot awarded, we thought we would hand out some awards of our own.

The Red Card Award:  For crossing the line of trying to get sponsorship benefit without paying

Winner: Irish Bookmaker Paddy Power

Award Submission:  Truthfully, this is the red card that never happened. Power Paddy had a deal with infamous Uruguay Striker Luis Suarez that would pay him €1M to wear a branded mouth guard during the anthems, which they know is always televised. The deal was ironically dropped after FIFA banned Suarez for the biting incident involving Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini.

This would be a red card because official sponsors are paying millions of dollars for the global TV audience to see their brands on the field, and then Paddy Power would get around it by making a side deal with a player. Paddy Power is not new at this game either. Danish striker Nicholas Bendtner flashed a pair of Paddy Power branded underpants when celebrating his goal against Ukraine in the Euro 2012 competition. He was fined €100,000 by UEFA, which Paddy Power subsequently paid. The bookie also sought to rename a number of its shops as “Pele Power” in the run up to the World Cup. However the iconic Brazilian legend threatened legal action over the stunt so it was abandoned.

The Bend it Like Beckham Award: For finding a way around the rules and building your brand’s association

Winner: Snickers

Award Submission:  This suddenly feels like the Luis Suarez awards because the infamous biting moment of Italian soccer player Giorgio Chiellini opened up a door for many brands to get involved in the conversation. Although not an official FIFA sponsor, Snickers joined the conversation via Twitter by tying the news event brilliantly to their brand proposition.

Here are a few other honourable mentions:





The Golden Boot Award:  For the sponsor with the best activation

Winner: McDonalds

Award Submission: McDonald’s is a global brand with a mass consumer target providing the potential for World Cup sponsorship to go beyond brand awareness to make great economic sense. What we love most was the McDonald’s “Peel, Play, Ole Ole” promotion, where consumers could peel a game piece on participating products for a chance to win prizes, including a trip to the World Cup final.

We’re awarding McDonald’s for following our four key questions to answer when thinking about sponsorship:

  1.  Where to play:  Which sponsorships can be a shared passion between your current/potential customers and your brand?
  2. What to say:  How can you leverage the sponsorship assets to deliver your brand message in a compelling way (going beyond “we are the official sponsor of…”)?
  3. How to say it:  How do you deliver your message in a way that taps into the high audience passion for the event, and in a way that can’t be replicated by ambushers?
  4. Whether it’s working or not:  What are the direct benefits (volume, media assets, etc.) and the indirect benefits (brand equity) that you need to deliver to make this a good return on investment?

So, why did McDonald’s “Peel, Play, Ole Ole” promotion win?

  • Only a sponsor could do it:  Win a chance to go to the World Cup final
  • It’s directly tied to selling more of their products: Buy specific McDonald’s products and get more chances to win
  • It’s a proven tactic:  McDonalds has done this before with their Monopoly game promotion
  • 360 Activation:  Mass communication, in-store signage including turning their tables into soccer pitches

Congratulations to all the brands who took their shot because the sponsorship lines on the field are not clear and are getting blurrier every year.  So what do you think? Are any other brands award worthy?