World Cup Fever Popping Up at Retail

Jun 14, 2010

By Tom Ryan

While bars in U.S. cities were packed with revelers riveted to
World Cup’s start this past weekend, evidence of the world-wide event was hard
to find at retail.

That’s a far cry from countries where soccer is a national
pastime. In England, sales this past Saturday tied to the England vs. U.S.A.
game were said to rival Christmas holiday selling, driven by sales of items
such as beer and meat for barbecues, jerseys and widescreen TVs.

But in an interview
late April with Brandweek, Reinaldo Padua, Coca-Cola’s
assistant vice president of Hispanic marketing for North America, said the
brand was widening its World Cup push in the U.S. because of the growing youth
soccer participation.

"Our efforts in the past were usually more concentrated in the Hispanic
market. They are core fans of soccer," said Mr. Padua. "But with
the growth in the practice and popularity of this sport, we are at that tipping
point where during the weekends and in the summer you see soccer moms taking
kids to practices and games. We’re looking for how to fuel that active
living among their kids, and the company has decided to leverage that trend
and take this to [a more general] market."

"Companies are looking beyond the Hispanic market this year," John
Guppy, owner of the Chicago-based firm Guilt Edge Soccer Marketing, concurred
to The Christian Science Monitor. "It’s probably the first
time this has been a trend with direct corporate investment."

Among the
offline and online World Cup marketing efforts planned over the month-long

  • McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. are running a "Taste the Glory" campaign
    with peel-off game pieces available on Big Macs and Egg McMuffins. Game pieces
    include instant prizes or a special code to play EA’s 2010 FIFA World Cup
    South Africa game online for a chance to win other prizes such as EA’s new
    game, video game consoles, and tickets to the U.S. vs. Brazil game in New
    York this August. Online, is seeking out the "Ultimate
    FIFA World Cup Fan" from each country.
  • At participating Best Buy stores in Los Angeles and Miami, customers can
    have their pictures taken in front of a green screen of a World Cup-themed
    background. At, fans can put themselves on a mock cover of ESPN
    the Magazine
    while holding the Cup.
  • Puma City NY at South Street Seaport in downtown Manhattan will be showing
    all the World Cup games over the next month, as well as featuring DJ’s, musical
    artists, foosball and ping pong tournaments, and athlete appearances. 
  • Sony launched its own "Twitter Cup" online in which national
    teams compete in a virtual tournament based on how many tweets their teams
  • Castrol, the lubricant manufacturer, has developed a "Castrol performance
    index" at to rate players based on how well they
    play during the tournament.
  •  Coke’s "Longest Celebration" campaign on YouTube
    encourages people to submit their own videos of goal celebrations and watch
  •  The "Bud House" online reality show features 32 people
    — one from each country in the tournament — living together during the
    Cup. Each member is kicked out as their national teams are disqualified.

Discussion Questions: Is marketing around the World Cup still mainly a Hispanic
opportunity in the U.S. or is it appealing to a wider audience? Have you seen
any innovative marketing around the World Cup?

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18 Comments on "World Cup Fever Popping Up at Retail"

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Zel Bianco
11 years 11 months ago

The World Cup is definitely becoming more mainstream as it is hard to not get “World Cup Fever” if you give it a chance. After all, the entire globe is glued to it, and we, as Americans, should be more “worldly” and enjoy it! The American media is so hell bent on reminding us that “Once again, the World Cup is here, and once again, Americans couldn’t care less.” That does not seem to be true anymore, and even if you don’t completely understand the game, if you give it a chance, you will see why if is known as the “beautiful game.” Retailers would be smart to ride this wave as even those who don’t consider themselves fans of soccer, seem to have a lot more interest during the World Cup.

I love baseball and football, but don’t get get really excited about it until playoff time. Go USA!!!

David Biernbaum
11 years 11 months ago

I have noticed too that most retailers missed the boat on the World Cup momentum. The event inspires sales of patriotic merchandise, and albeit for a short time, this was the perfect opportunity to sell high-margin, licensed merchandise from an off shelf display for that ideal 6-weeks period of time. In some regions bordering Mexico there were dual opportunities as well.

Anne Howe
11 years 11 months ago

World Cup Soccer is a shopper marketing opportunity that has yet to become reality. There’s a tremendous amount of cultural flow in play that inspires Hispanic consumers to assume and act on more general market behaviors, and vice-versa. The shift in general market consumers to embrace, respect and get immersed in more global cultural activities is, to me, the biggest potential upside for marketers. American citizens are embracing the chance to feel involved in the “global vibe” that the World Cup creates.

In food marketing alone, there are endless possibilities to encourage shoppers to experiment with new flavors and recipes created in support of the various teams that are competing. Retailers and manufacturers could partner to help shoppers get organized for themed parties at home, offering easy and diverse snack and meal approaches for key match-ups. The restaurant industry is the beneficiary of the party spirit, and while that is good news for some, the at-home party opportunities are a missed opportunity in shopper marketing that could easily be leveraged.

Roger Saunders
11 years 11 months ago
Soccer has a loyal and growing following in the U.S., but it battles an Adult population (40+ age bracket) that had limited exposure to playing the sport. The economy isn’t helping matters for Soccer. Major League Soccer attendance is averaging about 15,000 fans per game (Seattle and Philadelphia teams being an exception with 36,000 and 30,000 respectively). Add to the equation that the summertime competitor–Major League Baseball–attendance is trending down for the second straight year (it was off -7% in 2009), major media covers it about like they do professional tennis, and a mass market of fans hasn’t identified with individual players on the scale of other “American” sports, and you have a challenging marketing position. Soccer will build in the U.S., and, innovative marketers will find it useful to make it part of their sports marketing mix, as the price/value tops the cost of other major league sports. It still remains a long, patient push of each year bringing more youngsters into the game, educate their parents, and build the tie-ins with worldwide events… Read more »
Dick Seesel
11 years 11 months ago

World Cup is generating more interest in the U.S. than ever before, particularly among the generations after the Baby Boomers. It’s not strictly an ethnic phenomenon, and marketers (brands and retailers) would be smart to pay more attention to the surge of interest.

Ryan Mathews
11 years 11 months ago

There is a large ethnic opportunity associated with the World Cup and logic tells you–given the number of soccer leagues in the U.S.–that opportunity should be broader. However, “football” is not just a game in the rest of the world, it’s a defining and organizing social principle.

Maybe the World Cup will gain mass acceptance in the U.S. but I’m betting that will be the same year we’ll see big sales of NASCAR merchandise in Slovenia.

Cathy Hotka
11 years 11 months ago

It strikes me as an opportunity for the US–we who call our American baseball championship the “World Series”-to acknowledge sporting events from around the world. FIFA Fever is only going to get bigger.

Mark Burr
11 years 11 months ago

Check back in 10 years. For those that can stay in for the time being on a cost basis, they will gain in the long run. However, in the meantime, it’s yet to be thoroughly mainstream.

Right now, it’s not even water cooler talk. Other than the fact that it’s a headline on the Drudge report, most don’t know a thing about it other than that it’s happening. But then again, I just yesterday paid attention to the NBA playoffs when Boston went up 3-2.

Right now, it’s baseball season in the USA. Detroit swept Pittsburgh in a three game series. The rest of the world may be paying attention, we’re just not here. All the while, in the meantime, the demographic shift of the world in the southern half is changing a lot of things. The Olympics in Rio may help gain us to take a view of our global positioning. We’ll see.

Len Lewis
Len Lewis
11 years 11 months ago

There’s limited World Cup marketing at retail because no one wants to get stuck with all the unsold merchandise when the World Cup is over. Soccer is not going to take off in the US until fans are willing pay $75+ for a ticket to a professional game on a regular basis. Then you’ll be able to sell the merchandise to go along with it. Parents yelling from the sidelines during the kids’ Sunday morning soccer games don’t count for much on the bottom line.

Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 11 months ago

World Cup is not even getting the hype on Sports Talk radio yet. And it will not until the USA Team advances to where they have a chance to win it or score a major upset. (Remember Hockey and the influence beating Russia in the Olympics had on the growth in popularity?)

It is still largely a Hispanic and European followed event with a sprinkling of American fans joining in. The American interest is growing each year but there is plenty more that has to happen here to gain the following it has world wide.

Yes, sports bars, and specialty shoe and sporting good stores will show an increase in sales and traffic. But the traditional retail store seems to be missing the boat. I was in two major big box chains yesterday and cannot recall seeing anything World Cup that caught my attention.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
11 years 11 months ago

The mass audience is fragmenting. How many times have we heard that? This week there were finals for the NBA and hockey and the World Cup. Not all US consumers are interested in sports; not all US consumers are fans of all sports. The media has not hyped the World Cup like the Super Bowl. In part that hype has not come because there are several major sports events, plus the baseball games to cover. By the time of the final World Cup game there may be more coverage and hype. There is more hype over the Super Bowl than there is for every game every week.

Tom Ryan
11 years 11 months ago

At least in New York City, World Cup Fever was rampant this past weekend. The bars were packed like I’ve never seen. Many were full to capacity and had lines outside. We met a girl who had been to four different bars before she could find one that let her in. It was certainly helped by U.S. playing England and U.S. being the underdog for once–so we’ll see how other games fair. But soccer is definitely resonating with the younger generation and these drinkers were obviously not so young. There’s something certainly captivating about the whole global element of the Cup.

James Tenser
11 years 11 months ago

The FIFA World Cup is much more than an “ethnic” opportunity for brand marketers, and considering the pomp and anticipation for the U.S. team that is associated with this year’s tourney in South Africa, most American retailers have evidently missed the gooooooooooooaaaaallll!

With millions of our children playing in youth soccer leagues every year, and the quality of play on university and pro teams rising, marketers should recognize that familiarity and interest in the “gentleman’s game played by hoodlums” is growing fast. World Cup television coverage on ESPN has been commendable so far–the only negatives being the inconvenient time zone and the swarm-like drone of the vuvuzela trumpets that seems to permeate South Africa.

Chuck Palmer
11 years 11 months ago

Thanks to ESPN and major brands, there is much more awareness this time around. But I have to say, it still feels like a niche–a growing one, but niche all the same.

If you are familiar with the concept of the Long Tail, you might see that futbol like most other sports have their niche and the idea is to expand their reach to more aficionados more so than it is to convert the rest of us.

That said, it will grow, but it will be slower than what many expect. If it happened annually, we Americans might be engaged more readily; we DO have short attention spans after all. (Check out 7&7 rugby.)

Hell, I just figured out that LA and Boston are in the NBA playoffs. In June? I’m still trying to figure out curling.

Craig Sundstrom
11 years 11 months ago

I think the score remains what it has been for years (always?): Anything Else 1, Soccer 0–or maybe that should read “Futbol” 0–gee we’re not even on the same page language-wise, with the World Cup somewhat above Arbor Day, but well below St. Patty’s in marketing importance.

While I don’t want to belittle anyone’s efforts specifically, the marketing cited for the most part sounds like the least possible was put into them (how much effort is it for a multi-billion dollar company to place cardboard cutouts in their stores?) and I think it reflects the tendency to “celebrate” practically anything these days.

Victor Willis
Victor Willis
11 years 11 months ago

It’s growing slowly among Baby Boomers and Gen X’s but drop down to Gen Y and Z level and there’s a seismic shift in interest. Far and away the #1 sport in participation in the U.S. Bodes well for marketing opportunities for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

There’s very little evidence of World Cup merchandise in stores but online retailers like WorldSoccerShop and are reporting brisk sales. However, the World Cup is more than just a competition. Its one of the few unifying agents and equalizers in the world and brings together disparate nations to play what Pele, the famous Brazilian player once called the “Beautiful game.” In this era that’s practically unheard of.

The only companies making money from the 2010 World Cup in the U.S are the Vuvuzela manufacturers and in 2010/11 the manufacturers of hearing aids (vuvuzela’s belt out at 130 decibels, as loud as a jet engine).

Edward Eng
Edward Eng
11 years 11 months ago

I’ve been away from the States for over six years. When I was there it didn’t seem like World Cup was big. It probably still isn’t that ‘mainstream’. But from what I see from half way across the world, social networks have probably helped World Cup’s presence break through to more than just the Hispanic community.

John Crossman
John Crossman
11 years 11 months ago

It is absolutely growing into a bigger audience, partly because soccer is played more in the US. But, I think the main reason is that more Americans are thinking globally. I still like American football better.


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