The World Cup by FIFA and Ambush Marketing

FIFA World Cup

 The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, it is anticipated all over the globe and the most universally followed single sporting event on earth. I cannot think of another single event that unites the world brings the most elite football teams and players together. The World Cup occurs every four years, what occurs next is three and a half years of priming through qualifying games, small leagues, and knock out playoff games. The global fan base enthusiastically waits and stays up to date with the World Cup in many different ways including: physical attendance, television viewing, broadcasting on radio, online participation and social media. The total attendance for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was 3,429,873 over the 64 matches (FIFA, 2014). The FIFA World Cup reached 3.2 billion homes televisions worldwide the final game between Argentina and Germany was viewed in 1.013 billion homes (FIFA, 2015). A total of 98, 087 televised hours which resulted in a 36% increase from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa (FIFA, 2015). With the exploding development and importance of social media between the event and its followers, there is no shock that over 1 billion crazed fans visited FIFA’s social, online, and mobile platforms during the period of the tournament (FIFA, 2014).

Sponsorship at the FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is an extraordinary event and is well attended, supported, and watched, but this event also offers immense potential in producing revenue explicitly within broadcasting rights and sponsorship prospects. The 2014 World Cup generated a $2.6 billion profit with FIFA earning $2.4 billion in TV rights, $1.6 billion in sponsorships, and 107 million in licensing rights (Manfred, 2015). With its massive worldwide viewing base and the capacity for sales generation from a advertising and marketing point of view, becoming an authentic sponsor to the FIFA world Cup proves an attractive venture for any top corporation. Adidas, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Hyundai and KIA Motors, McDonald’s, and VISA are all current partners with FIFA, either as an official partner or an exclusive World Cup sponsor. In trade for supplying investment to the FIFA World Cup, official sponsors seek to raise brand popularity and sales from being related to this kind of high-profile event. Those companies have the added advantage of using FIFA trademarks and logos in advertising and marketing campaigns to connect target audiences with its company’s brand. Stotlar (2013, p 6) tells us that “sport is attractive to sponsors because it can provide a cross-sectional demographic exposure when compared to other marketing avenues. The diverse demographics represented by many sport activities and events is crucial to corporations…”

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Rivalry is on show at the highest level during the World Cup over the span of 90 minutes between teams as they compete to be the best. This ferocity of competition is evident off the field too between official and unofficial sponsors trying to take advantage of a worldwide event. Mainly from the position of raised brand awareness and enhanced revenue.

Adidas and Nike are two key samples of rival sponsors that aim to become the world’s top soccer brand, thus connecting their brand to the FIFA World Cup. In addition, Adidas has made it a goal to be the best in world soccer as an official partner of the FIFA World Cup and Nike hasn’t. To be more specific, Adidas actually sponsors the event and receives benefits like: having entree to FIFA’s official trademarks and logos, marketing campaigns as an official sponsor, and provide the official match ball for the tournament. Nike actually evades paying FIFA revenue to become an official sponsor, and as an alternative sponsors individual players and teams partaking in the World Cup. Even though Nike is not an official sponsor, the corporation does still acquire rewards of brand publicity and enhanced revenue by running advertisement campaigns highlighting its sponsored teams and players. Indirectly, Nike is displaying to consumers that it is connected to the World Cup, via star players with individual endorsements and teams with Nike endorsements. This nature of marketing has been claimed as ambush marketing. This paper will study the existence of ambush marketing at the FIFA World Cup.

 In this paper, ambush marketing will be explored, the history will be explained, the efficiency of legal measures against this strategy will be acknowledged, the perseverance and creativeness of ambush marketers will be revised, and an argument made counter to official sponsors threatened by ambush marketers. This paper exposes how FIFA as an imminent event holder and its official sponsors can bound the effects of ambush marketing, predominantly by concentrating on advertisement campaigns that provide sufficient volumes of exclusive content and coverage to dedicated fans to develop official sponsor recognition and positive consumer intents.

Sponsorship and Ambush Marketing Defined


 This paper is positioned around the FIFA World Cup and ambush marketing, sponsorship itself must be well-defined. Sponsorship is the forming of a symbiotic relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored activity or event with the purpose of both entities simultaneously providing and receiving benefits (Motion, Leitch, and Brodie, 2003). Some of these benefits may include enhanced market value and higher profits for companies and increased operating revenues for sport organizations and events (Stotlar, 2013). Sponsors must pay huge amounts to be labeled an official sponsor. There is a price to pay to get official access to the event’s benefits.

Ambush marketing is defined by Ukman (1995, p. 42) explains it as “a promotional strategy whereby a non-sponsor attempts to capitalize on the popularity/prestige of a property by giving the false impression that it is a sponsor. This tactic is often employed by the competitors of a property’s official sponsors.” Ambush marketing is a scheduled effort by an “organization to associate itself indirectly with an event in order to gain at least some of the recognition and benefits that are associated with being an official sponsor” (Sandler and Shani, 1989, p. 11).

One of the very first accounts of ambush marketing happened at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles (Portlock, 2006). There were three levels of sponsorship presented, these were all defined as either official sponsors, suppliers and licenses. These levels of sponsorship ended in a downfall of official sponsors down to the rise in costs to lock in the rights as an official sponsor. The biggest hurdle for prospective sponsors was the huge cost linked with becoming an official sponsor to the World Cup. A consequence of the elevated costs, Kodak ambushed Fuji film which was a rival and an official sponsor of the 1984 Olympic Games.

Kodak acquired sponsorships with the United States Olympic Committee and paid for copious TV advertisement during the Games which fashioned the opinion that Kodak were an official sponsor (Stotlar 2013, p. 56). Kodak used this to their advantage and the public’s ignorance about the Olympic Games’ official sponsors received the benefits of increased brand awareness and revenue. This is one of numerous cases of ambush marketing.

Evidence of Ambush Marketing at FIFA World Cup

 Over the period of the last six World Cups, you can find lots there of evidence of ambush marketing by both companies and individuals.Since the 1994 World Cup in the U.S, ambush marketing has been present. Reebok, who was not a sponsor during the 1994 World Cup released a TV show on the Cable News Network looking at international soccer matches leading up to the kick off of the tournament (Jensen, 1994).

Pepsi, a direct competitor of the official sponsor Coca-Cola, also released its “Pepsi Soccer Fest” during the summer, indisputably to coast off the tournament’s increasing media attention. During the 1998 World Cup in France, FIFA acknowledged to have lost the fight against ambush marketers as its chief trademark agent claimed their method was “too legalistic” and failed “to appreciate the damage and scale of ambush (Kahn, 2002). Counterfeit World Cup logos were printed on merchandise and other appeal items and worn inside the venues in addition, rivals were able to dispense cheering sticks and beach balls with their logos amongst supporters. A retaliation to the 1998 World Cup France, FIFA spent $7.7 million acquiring defensive trademarks to impede ambush marketers at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan (Kahn, 2002). 

FIFA also arranged trademark protection groups to observe venues in order to counterbalance any ambush attempts. At the end of one game during the tournament in Korea/Japan, a trademark protection group had commandeered 30 signs advertising non- sponsored companies (Kahn, 2002).

Pepsi yet again designed an effective ambush campaign as it ran a series of advertisement’s globally highlighting some of the world’s top soccer stars under the hashtag “Tokyo 2002”.  The Pepsi ambush campaign was ultimately found violate the FIFA sponsorship terms by an Argentine court, Pepsi were still able to finish its campaign in Argentina before the ruling was finished. The ruling still allowed Pepsi to run the campaign in other international countries due to dissimilarities in international law (Kahn, 2002).

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A famous example of ambush marketing occurred during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.  Two ladies attended the Netherlands vs Denmark game with a large group of 36 women all wearing orange dresses, the group of ladies were also from the Netherlands. The dresses worn by the women were sold exclusively by a Dutch beer company called Bavaria NV, the dresses happened to become a rare collector’s item in Holland (Stewart, 2010). The large group was kicked out by FIFA officials from the Soccer stadium during the game as FIFA saw this as an ambush marketing effort against its official sponsor Anheuser Busch Budweiser (Stewart b, 2010). The original two ladies who were believed to organize the stunt was at first arrested, charged, had their passports confiscated. The Bavaria marketing director Peer Swinkels, announced that the dresses had no Bavaria logo and were simply the same color of the Dutch national team colors. All charges were eventually dropped and the two women were given permission to return home as FIFA and Bavaria reached a private agreement,

During the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, FIFA gave out 100 cases of ambush marketing with 80 percent of those emerging with ambush marketers selling trivial amounts of products duplicating FIFA’s marks (Ramos & Carneiro, 2014).

Ambush marketing has had a big presence at the FIFA World Cup over the last 20 years and has been seen to be done in a variety of ways. Ambush marketing establishes itself via advertisement campaigns, illegitimate signage, and fans wearing unofficial sponsors attire inside stadiums. These strategies can be facilitated in a variety of tactics not mentioned in this section of the paper. Ambush marketers can also launch merchandise or services in union with an event for example, attire, footwear, drinks, advertising at the event’s location, launch philanthropic associations associated to the event, and advertise on social media (Nufer, 2016).

 It seems like ambush marketers become progressively imaginative and tenacious when more preventative measures are set in place. Connors and Passariello (2010) report “’FIFA tries their best to really protect their sponsors, but the fact of the matter is that companies like Nike and American Express don’t want to be sponsors because they’ve been so good at ambushing.” Though this eccentric marketing strategy has been exploited by companies like Nike, Pepsi, and American Express at the FIFA World Cup, what lawful measures can be used to mitigate the undesirable effects of ambush marketing on FIFA and its corresponding sponsors?

Legal Measures against Ambush Marketing

 There seems to be one method that has shown to be the most effective when trying to protect sponsors and event holders by establishing “exclusion zones” or “clean sites”. These geographical regions can be shaped by event holders like FIFA with venue owners and local governments. These regions make is so that FIFA has full control over advertising/marketing areas within and around the venue grounds, this means FIFA may remove all advertising from non-sponsors (Uphoff, Cohen, Brown, Massey, & Bosling, 2013). During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil a radius of one kilometer around Maracana Stadium was to be FIFA’s exclusive area for advertising and activities. This would allow FIFA to have police powers to enforce intellectual property rights and seize potential counterfeit products” (Ramos & Carneiro, 2014).

 One of the biggest obstacles that FIFA faced with this was that international law varies in handling and recognizing ambush marketing. In addition, there are some countries that have no specific law that address the subject of ambush marketing. FIFA is forced to rely on legal precedent and creating new legal measures with local governments (Uphoff, Cohen, Brown, Massey, & Bosling, 2013). An example, during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, FIFA passed special legislation with the South African government at the national and local levels in addition to following the legal precedent that had been established against ambush marketers during the Cricket World Cup in 2003 (Temkin, 2011). This type of legal precedent is always not possible in the host nation. There has been no legal precedent in conjunction to ambush marketing set prior to the 2014 FIFA world cup. Brazil and FIFA had to pass two items of legislation to prevent the flooding of ambush marketing. Through the Brazilian Industrial Property Law and the World Cup Law, ambush marketing was well-defined as an act of unfair competition and trademark infringement (Ramos and Carneiro, 2014). FIFA had ample types of protection against ambush marketing during the event. Things like, restricted regions around the venues where retailing or endorsing merchandise of non-sponsors was prohibited, compensation for losses and damages for unofficial advertised events around or related, a list of symbols that were automatically declared famous by the government, and a special exemption from any fees for the registration of new FIFA marks (Ramos & Carneiro, 2014). Samples of such symbols may have included “2014” expressions like “soccer” and/or “football”, “Brasil” and “Brazil”, “World Cup” (du Toit, 2010).

In Defense of Ambush Marketing, FIFA and Official Sponsors Must Raise the Level

 It’s safe to say that the statergy of ambush marketing is here to stay. It seems that offenders are just having to be more creative in the ways that they are carrying It out. Existing research, the evolution of social media and learning from previous World Cups shows this. In spite of the legal measures put in place, the creativity and persistence of ambush marketers this technique will just have to be reinvented at every FIFA World Cup. With fans and viewers in the millions and with one Facebook or Twitter post away from reaching that market, any non-sponsor to a FIFA event can easily lure the attention to themselves by ambushing rival’s campaigns.

An example of this was evident at the EURO 2016 where an English grocery store called Iceland Grocers signed a sponsorship deal with the Iceland national team and used social media to bring attention to its brand, thus ambushing food and drink sponsors of EURO 2016. By cleverly associating themselves with the underdog side’s run in the tournament with a plain fully original sponsorship move, Iceland Grocers boosted their brand awareness. With the success of inexpensive marketing techniques like this, we may just see more companies try their luck at ambush marketing in future competitions.

FIFA and its official sponsors, the main concern must be in providing powerful and all-encompassing marketing campaigns centered around the World Cup. Once confirming the legislative measures, restricted regions, and rights to teams are set, both FIFA and its sponsors need to concentrate on improving advertisement campaigns around the event. FIFA and the official sponsors must create connections between fans and the World Cup and not just fans and soccer. Research proves that dedicated fans better remember official sponsors increasing positive consumer attitudes toward these brands that back events which they reflect to be interesting and significant (Simon & Motion, 2005). FIFA must make sure that the official sponsors are fabricating irreplaceable and unique content that is distant to non-sponsors “to form part of a strategic marketing campaign that creates elements that build event involvement, interest, enjoyment, and importance utilizing traditional and new media channels” (Portlock, 2006). Budweiser director of marketing Bob Lachky made an intuitive assessment of ambush marketing, “ambushes will happen, and it’s your own fault if you don’t come through loud and clear that you’re a sponsor” (Jensen, 1994).


This paper investigated the definition of ambush marketing and sponsorship, a short history of the FIFA World Cup and ambush marketing, current legislation that obstructs ambush marketing, the tenacity and imagination of ambush marketers, and how FIFA and official sponsors can leave ambush marketers in their dust via more efficient advertisement strategies. I would like to see future investigations evaluate how unique content and exposure of the World Cup advertising by FIFA and official sponsors shakes up fans levels of involvement and participation.


Work Cited

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Analysis of the 2015 FIFA Corruption Case

FIFA stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association and was founded in 1904. FIFA is the governing body of association football, futsal, and beach soccer and is also responsible for all major international tournaments including the World Cup. It’s headquarters are in Zürich, Switzerland, and currently has 211 associations affiliated to FIFA. The Supreme body of FIFA is the FIFA Congress which represents each affiliated national federation. These individuals in Congress have the right to make changes to FIFA’s by-laws. The Congress elects the President of FIFA, its Secretary-General, and the other members of FIFA’s Executive Committee. The President and Secretary-General are the main office holders of FIFA, and are in charge of its daily administration, carried out by the General Secretariat, with its staff of 208 members (FIFA.” Ohio River – New World Encyclopedia). The main decision making body of the organization is the FIFA’s executive Committee, as well as the FIFA President. FIFA games are played throughout the world and have created confederations that oversee the games in different continents and regions. The laws of soccer that govern the game are maintained by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). FIFA has a 50 percent representation on the IFAB board (four representatives); the other four are provided by the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, in recognition of the unique contribution to the creation and history of the game by the nations now comprising the United Kingdom (FIFA.” Ohio River – New World Encyclopedia).
Management & Governance
As a world governing body, FIFA must full fill numerous different requirements. The FIFA Code of Ethics is responsible for watching over the entire football community and helping tackle current challenges in football such as illegal betting, bribery and other prohibited activities. Under the Code of Ethics, disciplinary sanctions can be imposed on offending officials, players, players’ agents and match agents (Governance – How FIFA Works).
The FIFA president holds the highest position who is elected for four years by the FIFA Congress. The FIFA Congress are eligible to vote, and the President of FIFA can also be re-elected.
FIFA Congress
The FIFA Congress is the supreme body of the organization. There are 211 members and have the right to vote in congress. They are also able to propose candidates for the World Cup Hosts, as well as the Presidency of FIFA.
FIFA Committee
The FIFA Executive Committee, as well as the FIFA President determines by the strategy which could influence decisions. These decisions are guided by the recommendations of some 22 specialist standing committees, in which representatives from the confederations and associations are able to express their various views and requirements (Governance – How FIFA Works).
 2017 Financial Structure:
At the end of 2017, FIFA had a 98% of Budget Revenue signed by the end of 2017 and were on track to exceed the target of the 2015-2018 financial cycle. The savings against budget totaled USD $180 and the successful sales and effective operations delivered a result before taxes and financial result of USD $300 million over budget, ensuring sufficient financial resources for football development. This in return brought a promising outlook for the upcoming years and foresee a strong growth in revenue.
Revenues and investments
With strong financial results, FIFA foresees a promising outlook in the next 4 year cycle.
USD Revenue for FIFA amounted to $734 million which was up USD $120 million compared to budget. Investments amounted to USD $923 million which was $180 million compared to budget. There was an inflow of $479 million in cash flows. In conclusion, 2017 was a healthy year and the future remains promising.
FIFA’s total expenses amounted of USD $923 million.
These expenses included an investment of $37 million on the Marketing and TV Broadcasting, $477 million on Development and Education, $165 in FIFA’s governance and administration, $219 million in Competitions and Events, $25 million in Football Governance
Funding Streams:
FIFA is a non-profit organization and invests its funds back into the game. The earnings come from many of the major international competitions, including the World Cup. FIFA receives revenue from TV Broadcasting rights, licensing rights, hospitality rights, ticket sales, and other. The Partners of FIFA are ADIDAS, Coca-Cola, WANDA, GAZPROM, Hyundai, Qatar Airways, Visa, FIFA Play Fair, and
2015 FIFA Corruption Case
The investigation took place around the month of May where the US indicted fourteen current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption following a major inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Fifa Corruption Crisis: Key Questions Answered). This entailed wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. The investigation took place with the collusion between the officials of continental football bodies CONMEBOL (South America), CONCACAF (Caribbean, Central and North America), and the sports marketing executives.
Significant compliance and accountability issues
As of October 2018, FIFA has held its second Compliance Summit at the Headquarters. This discussed compliance concerns and challenges dealing with FIFA. This also discussed best practices with the process of risk management and due diligence. The Summit provided an opportunity for the FIFA Compliance team to explain the overall approach of the organization, as well as the many measures that have been introduced by FIFA in recent years to fully embed compliance into the organization’s day-to-day activities (FIFA Holds Compliance Summit).
How to Avoid the situation:
The tools and resources to provide a positive future direction on pathways to excellence would first be to demonstrate ethical practice and to always share accurate data about your performance. To measure effectiveness, an organization should provide ongoing  assessments on its effectiveness in achieving its mission. FIFA’s mission is to promote the game of football, protect its integrity and bring the game to all. FIFA will need to ensure that the organization has defined its measurable goals and objectives in place and a defined process in place to evaluate the success and impact of the program. The committee can execute an effective policy that will allow the individuals to assess the board policy every two years to determine future actions required to achieve FIFA’s mission. FIFA can also have a board oversight where it provides adequate oversight of its operations and its committee members.
FIFA and the corruption scandal in 2015 has turned a lot of attention to this non-profit organization. With the fourteen individuals charged with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, there has been a lot more investigation on ethical practices throughout the years to ensure  best practices. In this section, I will be discussing what professional and ethical practices the FIFA organization can do to thrive in the future. These recommendations and solutions will allow themselves to execute the following best practices.

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Per the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, good governance starts with the Board of Directors. They oversee everything throughout the organization, as well as ensuring the organization fulfills its mission. With heavy the decision making powers from the Executive board, they will need to discuss ethical practices to be able to monitor and guide good management. The  FIFA Organization can execute corporate policies and strategic goals that will focus on short-term and long-term challenges. To strengthen good governance, they will need to promote ethical conduct and hold more compliance meetings to discuss concerns and challenges with football and the allocation of revenue. It should include discussions on everything compliance related such as an implementation process for risk assessment as well as evaluating and managing risk.
The next important step to promote best practices for the FIFA Organization would be to always publicize their accurate and up-to-date data. This will allow transparency into the publics eyes so that they can understand the revenue allocations. FIFA will need to oversee all revenues and expenses to make sure everything is accurate when they publicize the data. The FIFA organization should provide a detailed revenue and expense breakdown in their reports that will include finical statements showing where the portion of the revenues and expenses are allocated.
The FIFA Organization can also establish human rights in football. This Organization moves people all around the world and is a very influential non-profit organization. FIFA is committed to protecting the dignity and the rights of everyone. Per FIFA Best Practices, FIFA therefore committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and striving to promote the protection of them in its key set of regulations, the FIFA Statutes, in February 2016. This commitment was embodied in its Human Rights Policy, which was approved by the FIFA Council in May 2017 and which embeds and strengthens its resolution to protect human rights in all of its activities (FIFA Food Practice Guide).
In conclusion, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) will be able to thrive in the future if they can execute best practices. They will need to be very transparent with accurate data in order to ensure ethical practices with revenue allocation. There has been a lot of attention placed on the FIFA Organization after the 2015 FIFA scandal. If the FIFA Organization can accomplish these

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