Fourteen of the first 16 FIFA World Cup tournaments were held in either South America or Europe (with Mexico and the U.S. being the exceptions). For the 2002 event, FIFA, the world governing body of the sport, made the unprecedented move of not only awarding the tournament to Asia, but also having it hosted jointly by two countries. The decision was favorably received not just by the Asian Football Confederation and its members, but also by FIFA’s marketing partners who would be able to showcase their brands in new, emerging markets and territories.
Certainly the region had seen major events in the past, with both South Korea and Japan hosting Olympiads in the last 20 years. But this time around it was different in several ways. First, the geography of the event made traditional media channels – print and broadcast – a difficult proposition for fans in the United States, Europe and Africa. But unlike previous major sporting events in held in Asia, broadband and mobile phone technology allowed fans to have instantaneous information regardless of their location. The second critical factor coming out of the 2002 FIFA World Cup was the beneficial knock-on effect it had for “non-traditional” locales and their opportunity to host global events. Last year the West Indies hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time. In 2008 Beijing will host the Olympics for the first time and in 2010 South Africa will host the FIFA World Cup for the first time.
What does this mean for marketers? Access to new markets is only valuable if you have the distribution to service this new pool of consumers. But even then, simply throwing open your doors, whether they be of the brick and mortar or virtual variety, is only part of the solution. Considerable consumer education may be necessary, and traditional advertising may not be enough. New consumers will need to be courted through a variety of channels. Being a sponsor of an event that engages consumers through their passions is a strong proposition, made even more so by leveraging public relations. Brand ambassadors, consumer events and online engagement can all help build brand awareness and affinity, which can lead to true business building impact.
Just as important as the consumer education is the brand education. Understand the needs and limitations of a new consumer segment as well as you’ve studied the new opportunities. You may even need to adjust your product to fit local customs and economics.