Chris Reed
Jun 11, 2014

Who has run the best World Cup guerrilla marketing campaign?

Arguably it is always creatively harder to be an unofficial sponsor attempting to gain World Cup association than to be an official one. It makes you think more innovatively and you have to tip-toe through the legal implications. Here are some great examples of brands that have launched unofficial World Cup campaigns.

Who has run the best World Cup guerrilla marketing campaign?

Samsung, who used to be a sponsor but clearly didn’t see the value in it, have launched the only campaign that includes both famous adversaries Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo. The concept is a simple and slightly over the top fantasy game to launch the Samsung Galaxy 11. It looks more Transformers than Samsung advert and may get lost in the hype around that new film than gain cut through in the World Cup.

Domino's is doing all they can to associate themselves with the World Cup and gain from the fact that in Asia all the games are in the middle of the night and fast food delivery brands are expected to have storming business. It is running a football orientated digital “kick off” game and in Malaysia are giving away an all expenses trip to Brazil itself.

Domino's weren’t so brave with the very obvious association with the country hosting the WorldCup in Singapore. You can only win the usual ipads and TV’s that every brand in Singapore always uses for every promotion going instead. Dominos do have the rather cheeky strapline of “football season is here”. As every notable football season in Europe (which dominates Asian TV viewing and football passions) have all just finished that’s a slightly bizarre line to be using to market themselves as a football brand.

Not to be outdone KFC is betting everything on the world’s most famous footballer Christiano Ronaldo who has become their brand ambassador. The fact that customers may just get confused as to how many brands Ronaldo endorses probably doesn’t matter to the marketing execs in charge.

KFC is using the brand imagery of Ronaldo in Asia and the Middle East and have even launched a KFC Ronaldo Variety Bucket and Ronaldo Hot Box. These are ideal for customers to enjoy a bigger meal while watching the beautiful game. So basically a very healthy athlete is promoting a fried-heart-attack waiting-to-happen product that is even larger than usual and KFC are even saying don’t bother to do any exercise just enjoy more and sit and watch the telly!


Castrol is an official sponsor but its non-sponsor Caltex that have caught in the eye in Singapore and decided to launch a Supa Strikers facebook sponsorship in Asia to capitalise on the association between all male orientated things like oil, petrol and tyres with the World Cup. 

I’m not sure that you can get an official shopping mall of the World Cup so mall brands are probably on safer ground than most in trying to gain association.

In Hong Kong Sun Hung Kai Properties is launching a full-scale campaign across 11 of its shopping malls throughout June and July to capitalise on the tournament. It is predicting that the World Cup this year will bring 36.1 million visits, up from 24.14 million visits for the last World Cup campaign four years ago.

Events include live broadcast of 56 games, themed art installations, exhibitions, pop-up stores, fashion shows, Brazilian Samba dance performances, special designated areas for you to watch the game with your dog, lucky draws, gift redemption schemes, activities with celebrity footballers and a game tournament involving a cell phone and a big screen TV plus the usual facebook competitions.

P&G’s Gillette brand have been busy hijacking the event through their sponsorship of the Brazilian national team. It has created a special yellow and blue themed set of razors to capitalise on the association while getting around actually sponsoring the tournament itself.


Nike have of course created a star studded adverts which looks identical to the previous tournament (an identical to the official World Cup sponsor adidas advert too)  as I have covered in a previous blog.

In America, official hotel chain of the American Team Marriott have launched a social media driven campaign. Various American ex-stars will headline a "Defenders of Travel" advertising campaign from Marriott.  An interactive website will feature videos to give fans an inside look at what it's like to suit up for the biggest games on the world stage, which sounds tenuous to say the least.

Pepsi is running an ambush campaign “Now is what you make it”. Pepsi have also produced a short film for “Unstoppable” – the latest hit from Dutch producer and DJ heavyweight R3HAB, featuring fellow Dutch dance-music sensation Eva Simons – off Pepsi Beats of the Beautiful Game. An anthem celebrating never-ending drive and the talent within. 

Volkswagen is running adverts against Hyundai hoping to capitalise on confusion over which brand is the official sponsor.

Subway, (who have a history of ambushing events such as the Olympics) is at it again employing Brazilian football legend Pele to front their marketing as they seek to upset official fast food brand McDonalds with their own marketing campaign. The rather bizarre strapline is “Winners Eat Fit” which doesn’t appear to even be English or make sense. The second strapline is the more conventional “Subway – Where Winners Eat” alongside a giant picture of Pele in his famous Brazilian No.10 shirt.

Nestle brand Milo have attempted to become associated with the World Cup unofficially by running a promotion to win $10k of TigerAir vouchers illustrated by a footballer in a Milo green strip. You can also win trips to, of all places, London. I’m not sure if they’re confused as to where the World Cup is. Also TigerAir don’t fly to London so I’m not sure how useful the vouchers will actually be! No real sense to the promotion except to desperately be connected to the World Cup in anyway.

Brazilian brand Havaianas is running an interesting unofficial World Cup sales promotion campaign in Singapore department store Tangs and its own stores to get a limited edition shoe bag and key chain if you buy their country themed flip flops. The countries illustrated with the colours of the country concerned just happen to be all those nations competing in the World Cup in Brazil. 

One of the questions in a Voxburner survey asked respondents to identify with the phrase 'It matters to me that brands celebrating a sports event are official sponsors and feature the official logo.'

The results were:

  • Strongly agree - 22%
  • Somewhat agree - 44%
  • Disagree - 26%
  • Strongly disagree - 8%

This suggests 66% of the 16-24 demographic have the view that brands celebrating the event 

should be doing so officially. There is an implication that they are not impressed by ‘unofficial’ brands leveraging sports events but is that just something people think that they should say when the results are actually different? Every major sporting tournament shows that Nike’s ambush marketing succeeds in being remembered by consumers far beyond the official adidas for example.

Media attention around the last Olympics that fans wearing Pepsi t-shirts might be turned away from the Olympic Stadium meant that visits to increased 53%, while on the same day traffic to Coca-Cola’s corporate site fell by 69%. Does it pay to be an official World Cup sponsor? We shall see after the event.

May they best unofficial brand win.


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