World Cup Sponsors Recover From Competitor Ambushes

World Cup Sponsors Recover From Competitor Ambushes

Last month, Nielsen reported that  Nike “ambushed” its way into the World Cup conversation by producing a popular soccer-themed ad that spread virally across the online community. The company’s efforts in the days and weeks leading up to the World Cup pushed its competitor and official tournament partner Adidas into the background of online conversations.

Since the start of the opening kickoff, though, Adidas has reasserted itself at the top of World Cup brand dialogue. When looking at the top 10 official sponsors and their major competitors, a follow-up study by NM Incite, a Nielsen McKinsey Company, found that in the first two weeks of the tournament Adidas overtook Nike as the top brand. Adidas buzz accounted for 25.1% share of World Cup buzz online compared to 14.4% before the event. Nike, meanwhile, dropped from 30.2% to 19.4%.

Part of Adidas’ increased buzz levels were due to discussions around the controversial official ball of the World Cup – the Jabulani. For the week ending the 13th June, which included the first three days of the tournament, the ball accounted for 8% of all English-language messages related to the World Cup.

“Half the game in buzz is ‘fanning the flames,’” said Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of digital strategy at Nielsen. “The Adidas football Facebook page, for instance, is now up to over a million fans and they are dropping new content several times a day, all while the average post is generating upwards of 100 comments. At the end of the day, brands need to keep the buzz ball in the air as long as possible – sponsored or otherwise.”

Budweiser, too, overcame a pre-tournament ambush from Carlsberg to assert itself as the most highly buzzed beer brand tied to the World Cup. Buzz share for the official beer of the World Cup climbed to 4.9% as it overtook Carlsberg, whose share fell to 2.4%.

Other official sponsors who enjoyed a noticeable increase in World Cup buzz included Hyundai/Kia (from 2.4% to 4.7%) and McDonald’s (2.8% to 4.2%).  The overall share of buzz for the 10 official World Cup partners/sponsors increased from 52% to 66% since the start of the tournament.


(Sponsors vs. Competitors)

Rank Brand Type % Share of Official and

Competitor Buzz*

1 Adidas FIFA Partner 25.1%
2 Nike Non-affiliated Competitor 19.4%
3 Coca-Cola FIFA Partner 11.0%
4 Sony FIFA Partner 9.8%
5 Budweiser FIFA Partner 4.9%
6 Hyundai/Kia FIFA Partner 4.7%
7 Visa FIFA World Cup™ Sponsor 4.7%
8 McDonald’s FIFA World Cup™ Sponsor 4.2%
9 Pepsi Non-affiliated Competitor 2.8%
10 Carlsberg Non-affiliated Competitor 2.4%
Source: NM Incite a Nielsen McKinsey Company

Share of online buzz across the 10 sponsors/partners with a global footprint and two of their major competitors in English language messages related to the World Cup from 11th -25th June 2010

“Sponsorship still matters, but it’s far from a ‘conversational’ guarantee,” added Blackshaw. “For big events like the World Cup and Olympics, you can always expect a modest ‘echo effect’ from any level of paid or sponsorship investment, but that’s just the foot in the door. The rest really depends on variables like timing, creativity, controversy, and a combination of brand readiness and agility.”

The NM Incite follow-up study compared the share of online buzz between World Cup sponsors and their major competitors in relation to the World Cup in the run up to the event (month-long period ending June 6th) and during the first two weeks of the tournament (11th -25th June). English language World Cup-related messages on blogs, message boards, groups, video and image sites – including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – were monitored for the study.