Marketing at the World Cup, The Big Brand Winners and The Marketing Own-Goals

The FIFA World Cup is the world’s most watched sporting occasion, giving businesses a huge platform to market their brands, products and services. 

The 2014 World Cup, hosted by Brazil, was watched by more than 3 Billion viewers, with the final alone commanding more than 1 Billion pairs of eyeballs

…and we can expect those numbers to be exceeded in 2018. 

These audience stats make an attractive proposition for businesses. So, instead of analysing the players, teams and tactics, we’re going to look at the off field competition, judging the 2018 World Cup’s biggest marketing winners and losers. 


We’re going to kick-off with the losers first. Yes, that’s right, despite having huge viewing audiences, some brands have still been able to score an own goal. 


The first big name to see red are payment giants, Mastercard. 

They teamed up with The World Food Programme to feed impoverished children in Latin America. And although this sounds like an injury time winner, there’s a stipulation…

…the meals will only be donated when either Messi or Neymar score a goal. 

World Cup marketing

Despite them offering the equivalent of 10,000 meals per goal scored, social media reacted in a less than satisfied manner. 

marketing World Cup

Other than being called ‘the worst marketing I’ve ever seen’, many have questioned why Mastercard haven’t just ‘donated the meals anyway’? And, why they’ve ‘trivialised child hunger’? 

The sentiment was a good one, but the execution was poor. Big loser. 



The American beer giant are one of the top sponsors of 2018’s festival of football, but seem to have forgotten something…

…not all football players drink alcohol. 

The company were given the honour of creating the Budweiser Man of the Match award at this year’s tournament, so they went ahead and created a trophy that looks like a deformed version of their bottle, including their brand name emblazoned on the side. 

World Cup marketing Budweiser

Whether this is their fault, or FIFA’s for allowing them to do it, is yet to be seen, but we’re expecting to see several of these trophies turned down due to religious beliefs. 

Alcohol is forbidden in the Islamic faith, and with Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Morocco all competing, this award is akin to missing an open goal by Bud. 

But these aren’t the only big names who could shun the award, Mesut Ozil, Paul Pogba, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah, Ahmed Musa and Xherdan Shaqiri are all practising Muslims, and will probably give it a miss too. 



If you were organising the world’s most watched sporting event, you’d probably think it was impossible to lose, right? 

Wrong. Despite being able to sell all the sponsorship, marketing and advertising rights to the tournament, FIFA are still MASSIVE LOSERS. 

To help you understand, let’s rewind back to the 2014 World Cup, where FIFA were able to accrue 8 massive brands as World Cup Sponsors. 

Fast forward four years of turmoil, scandals and corruption, and you’ll find a World Cup with just 5. Even less than the 2010 tournament’s total of 6. 

With an increase in advertising mediums and channels, we would’ve thought that sponsorship would grow…

…but over the last 4 years, FIFA have become that acquaintance who has really bad halitosis and nobody wants to get too close. 

Those to have tiptoed away from the supposedly-corrupt organisation include Johnson & Johnson, Sony and BP’s Castrol.

This led to a decrease in total revenue, from $1.62 Billion in 2011-2014 (the world cup and it’s build up), to $1.45 Billion from 2015-2018. 

But, where there’s losers, there are sure to be winners too…



World Cup marketing personality quiz


Their national team have only ever qualified for one World Cup, and didn’t make it Russia 2018 either, finishing behind Iran, South Korea, Syria and Uzbekistan in qualifying.

But, the nation with the second largest economy, have certainly won the competition for marketing.

When the Western Brands relinquished their ties with FIFA, football’s biggest world body were forced to reduce their sponsorship prices, allowing Chinese brands to capitalise, picking up all sorts of cheap wins. 

Asian sponsors now account for 39% of all deals, despite no team from the region ever going further than South Korea’s epic run to the semi’s in 2002. 

Of the 5 main world cup sponsors, 3 are Chinese, Hisense, Mengniu and Vivo. 

The most interesting inclusion is Mengniu, a Chinese dairy company who have been allowed to run a 7-minute commercial in the stadium at every match. They also have exclusive rights to sell sweet treats at the games, with products such as Mood for Green, Ice+ and various yoghurt drinks available. 

But, this Chinese Dairy company aren’t the biggest of the Chinese winners, Wanda Group have snared an even bigger prize…

…an official partnership with FIFA that runs until 2030. 

This is a huge step onto the international stage for the world’s largest real estate business, who will also be at the next three world cups. 



Another big winner from Asia. 

The South Korean car manufacturers have been given the chance to select and sponsor the ball carriers at the beginning of every match. 

This has given them significant camera time when fans anticipation is at its highest. 

Kia made the decision to select children to walk out onto the pitch. The 10-14 year olds were picked from countries all over the world, demonstrating a humanistic touch to the brand. 

Marketing World Cup KIA



The world’s most famous fast food company are expected to see a big increase in share price, during and after the world cup, but why?


They teamed up with UberEats in 2018 to offer delivery options for their customers in certain locations, but with a huge audience primed to tune in, they’ve added 200 of their UK restaurants to the service. 

McDelivery now operates from 470 British restaurants, and the world cup is sure to give their new(ish) delivery option much more exposure. 

They have also expanded their delivery service abroad, with footballing nations Spain, France, Germany and South Korea, expected to drive game-time revenue. 


The World Cup Winners and Losers

Every event offers opportunities for exposure, and we expect the World Cup to remain the largest for the foreseeable future. 

The next competition will take place in 4 years at Qatar 2022, and it’s believed that more Western brands may pull out of sponsorship due to the corruption that surrounds it. 

So, next time out, we’re sure you’ll see plenty more Asian and Middle-Eastern sponsors, who have recently invested heavily in the European league football. 

FIFA might be losers in 2018, but with big bucks in the countries surrounding Qatar, we expect them to win next time out. 

What do you think of world cup advertising? Have you ever sponsored an event? Leave a comment or send us a message and we’ll reply as soon as our social media manager has stopped pretending that his driving test was ‘cancelled’. 


World Cup Marketing Personality Quiz

7 out of 10 Digital Shopping Carts are Abandoned, Let’s Make That Change!

We The Customer, Are Not Numbers on a Spreadsheet

Director of Content at Einstein Marketer
Josh is an award winning content marketer and the Director of Content at Einstein Marketer, previously working as a content manager, freelance copywriter and marketer. He writes, edits, proofs and strategises content for Einstein Marketer's agency and their clients, sharing the most successful tactics and strategies with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links (above) so he can get back to writing as himself.

Share your thoughts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *