After the Sochi Olympic Games, I posted an article about ambush marketing and the guerilla tactics that brands resorted to when the International Olympic Committee reduced the number of “official advertisers” to 35 during the 1984 Olympics.
Brands like Nike, which was outbid by Reebok for official advertiser status, created ambush marketing campaigns to get its share of visibility at the games. Similarly, Bavaria, a Dutch brewer, used disruptive marketing tactics during a FIFA event in which Budweiser was the official sponsor.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, most of the campaigns were quite clever and so as a marketer, I had to appreciate their efforts. If not for the content, for the brazenness these brands showed in “thumbing their noses” at the organizing committees for their restrictive and exclusionary advertising policies.
During each of these past events, the ambush campaigns bled over into the digital and social space and so, with social media being even more prevalent and accessible today, we looked forward to what advertisers would do online during the current 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Certainly the immediacy and flexibility that brands have in the digital/social space would allow them to surpass the cleverness of past ambush campaigns, especially since we have the now-famous Oreo-Super Bowl blackout campaign to use as a benchmark.
You would think, huh?
Real Time Content vs. Real Time Marketing
In reality, the Oreo-Super Bowl success has done a disservice to marketers and the content marketing practice as a whole. The popularity of the campaign has enticed marketers to focus on real-time content instead of real-time marketing.
Instead of using real-time/real-world events to connect a brand’s essence to needs and desires of their audience, marketers are too focused on being funny, clever, and FAST. It seems that the essence of a brand or the needs/desires of its customers are no longer relevant ingredients for successful advertising. The current FIFA World Cup is a prime example.
Visa, an official sponsor of the 2014 World Cup, posted this ad in their social media stream the second the semi-final match between the German squad and the host Brazilian team was over. “Stunned” was the caption attached to an image of a heartbroken young Brazilian boy who had just watched his beloved team humbled by an unprecedented 7-1 thrashing. The look on his face mirrors the national shame felt by the entire country.
Visa’s social media marketing team stated what Brazilian (and worldwide) soccer fans were feeling: Stunned. However, Visa is neither a sports commentator nor a news program; it’s an advertiser, a business that charges people for its service. Attempting to endear itself to its audience by playing on the devastation felt by millions of soccer fans in Brazil is, well, what Mastercard might call “Priceless.” No doubt, there will be an increase in MasterCard use (at Visa’s expense) in that country.
Content Marketing: You’re Trying Too Hard
Red Bull, not an official sponsor of the World Cup, tweeted its dictate: “Someone give #BRA some wings,” which is a play on their slogan: “Red Bull gives you wings.”
Audi, also not an official sponsor, took advantage of the shocking number of goals scored against Brazil to draw attention to the number of cylinders in their cars.
I must admit, in each case I chuckled because, well, I’m that kind of a person. It was funny, in a groaning, awkward way. After the initial snort and chuckle however, I became uncomfortable. The idea of brands making light of something that had grown men crying and a nation in mourning just seemed wrong.
“You’re taking this too seriously Sam, it’s just a game,” you say? Try telling that to the 200 million residents of Brazil for whom soccer is more of a religion than a sport.
Not to be outdone, McDonald’s weighed in with this video:
In this case, the commentary of the one-sided game did not use gratuitous imagery or make light of the Brazilian soccer fans. Further this is just another in the #fryfutbol series they’ve created after every game.
This is an example of real-time marketing vs. real-time content. The videos play to the fun nature of the brand and product while giving a 15-second recap of the game. However, hurt Brazilian soccer fans may be, they can’t take offence at this recap, it’s stated very “matter-of-factly” while being respectful to the audience and the brand.****
As for the Visa and Red Bull examples, at best these are cases of marketers trying too hard to emulate the success of the Oreo-Superbowl campaign. In reality they’re just cheap knock-offs that play on human emotions in a negative way. At worst, they’re examples of lazy marketing, plain and simple.
Were these real-time ads successful?
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego