The FIFA Marketing Police

Dutch girls escorted away from the ground by an embarrassed looking FIFA official.

Another day, another World Cup post. I do like to keep things topical. This one also has the benefit of being about marketing a bit and having a picture of some pretty Dutch girls at the top of it.

FIFA may have made the right call (eventually) on not banning the vuvuzela, but the over-zealous policing of what fans choose to wear to support their team is another example of their attempts to stifle the joy of the supporter in favour of protecting their corporate sponsors. The fat, greedy misogynist old men that run the game obviously didn’t get the memo on releasing control and co-creation.

The full story on this can be found here in South Africa’s Star newspaper.

I can understand that FIFA might be a bit miffed if hoards of Dutch men and women were waving flags with Bavaria written all over them – they have a relationship with Budweiser to think of after all. But these are unbranded dresses given as a free gift by the beer brand. They may be recognisable as representing that brand in Holland, and well done to Bavaria if that’s true, but Eric Cantona is recognisable as a simple of Nike – are they going to chuck him out if he shows up at a France game? I also note from this article that Silvie Van Der Vaart has worn the dress in question (indeed, I found a picture) – I wonder if they’d escort her out if she turned up wearing it.

I think there are two important points here.

The first is, where does this all end? The full list of FIFA official partners is here. Does someone wearing Nike kicks, or a Nike replica shirt get taken out? What if a load of Chelsea fans show up with Samsung emblazoned on their chests – how does that effect the relationship with Sony? It’s certainly a more blatant display of branding than these Dutch girls were guilty of. It really is impossible to control this, so why try to and in so doing further cement the perception that you are money-grabbing leeches who care more about sponsors than fans?

The second is that this is playing directly into Bavaria’s hands. I saw some of the girls wearing this dress on the TV. I noted they were quite fit, but I had no idea the dress had any association with Bavaria whatsoever (granted that might not have been true if I was Dutch). Now I know very well who Bavaria are. I have some fairly strong associations with their brand and a decent idea that they are pretty smart marketers. So well done FIFA, for achieving Bavaria’s objectives for them expertly.


The Curiously Persistent Simon Kendrick took great pleasure in pointing this story out to me. Aside from the great news that the frankly awful (even by ITV’s famously low punditry standards) Robbie Earle is off our screens, there is a clear suggestion that many of the girls ejected were part of an orchestrated effort by Bavaria. It still seems highly likely from the Star story that some ‘innocent’ genuine fans were also caught up in this.

Further, I don’t think this makes any real difference to the 2 main points I make above – in fact, it makes the second one all the more pertinent in my view. Bavaria are clearly trying to get as much mileage out of this as possible – the stories about fans watching in their pants last time around, as linked by Simon in the comments below, demonstrate that they know this can work. FIFA have played right into their hands. This could have just been a few pretty girls on the telly wearing a brand cue. It’s now a major international story. The more FIFA keep behaving this way, the more brands will continue to ‘ambush’ them.

4 thoughts on “The FIFA Marketing Police”

    1. Hi Simon. Yeah – they mention that in the article I linked to and I do vaguely remember it. I like the Bavaria response of going with something completely unbranded and then just building the association through other means.

  1. Ambush marketing can be more cost effective than the massive World Cup licences. The most recalled football ad at the moment? Nike. The official sponsor? Adi-who?

    1. We were hoping to do some neuro work around exactly that – who has the strongest World Cup associations, official sponsors or others. Doesn’t look likely to happen for various reasons.

      I guess Nike isn’t really an ambush as such, just a much better ad than the adidas one.

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