What can we hope for from brands at the World Cup?

Nike has shown its World Cup hand very early with #riskeverything which, depending on your point of view, is either a glorious, glossy celebration of the game’s elite or a vapid, soulless, dead-behind-the-eyes, missed opportunity of epic proportions. 

A Neymar-Ronaldo-Rooney-Zlatan-tricks-faux-humour ad fronting a genuinely interesting social campaign I could’ve lived with; but Risk Everything is equally shallow socially with its emphasis on the individual at a time when collaboration, (teamwork!), has never been more sought after and championed.

Oh Nike, with your west coast love of a celebrity, you could have created something so much more interesting… something which talked to the overwhelming democracy of football, or to a post-recessionary we-want-happy zeitgeist, or to some kind Brazilian joie-de-beach-football. Crazy notion, but imagine the response, the debate, the leadership if you’d actually wrapped women in beyond having Ronaldo’s short-tight-dress totty winking and waving from the stands. Sigh.

As disappointing as Risk Everything is, we can perhaps forgive it for being made by Americans for a global audience. And it’s still several rungs above the appalling effort from Mars which has neither excuse. The creative execution (fan explains to Stevie G et al, from the stands, how to score via complicated free-kick routine) has so far been best described by a friend thus: “if you wrote, produced or signed off on the Mars WC campaign, I have the details of an excellent Swiss clinic where your treatment awaits”… beyond dire.

Naughty little Paddy Power is undoubtedly readying some little treat which will annoy the bejesus out of the FIFA execs but make everyone else giggle (not least because of the way it will annoy FIFA) and underline their role as the country’s favourite cheeky boy and mark a welcome return to form from the dark days of Oscar.

The race for social media platform supremacy will also accelerate. Facebook will do nothing of interest but still have an enormous share of voice just because it’s the biggest kid in the playground. Twitter will have its usual spikes, finding occasional moments and people to get apoplectic with rage one minute and then falling head over heels in love the next. Your Instagram feed will veer drunkenly from shots of drunken lads in pubs to shots of girls’ knees beside idyllic pools/beaches. 

Pinterest won’t quite realise the World Cup is happening, while Whatsapp will announce record messages-sent on an almost daily basis.

This World Cup will hopefully also see the final nail in the coffin of the somewhat 70s feeling idea of a ‘football widow’. These days women are surely either playing themselves, as interested and as knowledgeable as the boys or are happily, proactively, joyously taking the opportunity to do something far more interesting instead.  The one thing they are not doing is hanging around on the edges, sadly doing the ironing.

And what about Brazil itself? The building of stadia stories haven’t filled anyone with confidence, nor the sight of bloodied protestors angry at the vast expense. And then they released a logo which looks uncannily like a face-palm (have a look, you won’t ever unsee it). It doesn’t bode well. 

But then the Athens and Sochi Olympics had more than their fair share of pre-event tension and both seemed to go pretty well in the end, and one suspects Brazilians are not the type to let anything stand between them and a good party.

My final prediction is that the brands which do well out of Brazil will be those who manage to do at least one of the following:

1. Show a genuine love for and understanding of football fans. These brands will recognise and play on one or more of the deep-rooted emotions and feelings every fan around the world is likely to experience in June and July… the hope, the fear, the lust, the despair, the anxiety, the joy, the anticipation etc.

2. If done well, this will be married to an ability to act in real-time… the holy grail… expect a number of agencies to be hives of activities on the nights of big England games as savvy brands try to get in on the chat and ‘do an Oreo’.

3. They will understand some of the macro themes of our times… not least making the not-so-giant leap between teamwork and collaboration… just as the winners of the trophy will likely be the best team, so the brand winners will likely be the brand which collaborates with fans most effectively.

4. They will get the inherent democracy of the World Cup. The World Cup is the only time European, Latin American, North American, African and Asian teams play each other and there is a genuine bubbling up of understanding that this is the world’s game. It is equally a time when non-football fans become football fans… old, young, fat, thin, gay, straight, black, white, men, women… everyone can join in for these few weeks.

Nick Woods, Head of Consumer, Creative Director at Waggener Edstrom UK/EMEA