by Erin Weinberg
The statement “What a World Cup” has taken on a whole new meaning.
After close calls, last-minute goals, over times, penalty shots, red cards and injuries, we have the Brazil collapse. Since I arrived in Brazil for my second tour of duty this tournament, it has been a sea of green-and-clean clad, happy fans. Every store front, restaurant and hotel was draped in banners and flags. It was clear that the great feeling about the team’s continued advancement had helped quiet the protesters and loud voices of opposition. People were optimistic – and not just the fans. Yes, there were isolated protests during the first few weeks, but no more than you see in Times Square on any given weekend in New York. The love of the game and Brazilian pride had taken over and it was a great thing to see and be part of. As Americans, we root for our teams, wear our jerseys, celebrate victory and suffer defeat - but not the way Brazilians do. Soccer is a religion, simply put. When the national team plays, the country literally shuts down. Offices close, schools let out early and there is no apology for it. It’s the Brazilian way. So when Brazil took the field against Germany, the entire country was upbeat – almost euphoric – at the opportunity to play and vie for World Cup trophy on their home turf.
And then it happened…one goal for Germany…then two, three, and so on. The stadium, the fans…the entire country was devastated. The utter disbelief gave way to humiliation, which is a feeling that translates in any language, and Brazilians wore it on every face. It was painful to watch our Brazilian colleagues literally suffer as if they had been physically beaten-up. Grown men cried. The night was filled with firecrackers and people on the street, but more so to make their way home instead of celebrating with their friends and countrymen. There were some moments of violence – a Molotov cocktail thrown, stores broken into – but for the most part, people just wanted to suffer in peace
The next morning as I made my way to a meeting, it was noticeable how quiet the city of Rio was and how everyone who had been wearing their Brazil pride had put their shirts and flags away, at least until Saturday. They will suffer the pain of defeat for now and unfortunately carry the loss into all future World Cups given the unbelievable outcome...but what happens beyond is the question. Given their captain Thiago Silva and superstar Neymar Jr. were missing from the line-up, the country could have forgiven a 1-0 loss. But 7-1? No doubt there will be plenty of Brazilian fans in the stands on Saturday when Brazil plays the Netherlands for third place, but what is the long-term impact? It will reverberate into everything Brazil does in the foreseeable future – including the Presidential elections in October. This will unfortunately scar a country so passionate about football that it bleeds green and yellow. It will be the asterisk next to Brazil’s name whenever they talk about the 2014 World Cup Brazil. Ultimately, I know Brazilians will stand and support their team but when they get up off the floor is the question.
By Mary Scott
The FIFA World Cup kicked off yesterday. As fans, we’ll be cheering for our favorite teams, rooting for compelling storylines and feeling riveted as the competition unfolds. But as communications counselors for companies and brands looking to tap into the unbridled passion of the games, we will be paying just as much (if not more) attention to the action off the field.
So how does a company get the most out of a sponsorship or activation while managing the surround sound and avoiding becoming a vehicle for someone else’s agenda? Here are five critical components to consider:
- Be True to Your Brand – Don’t change your story to match the asset. Leverage the asset in a way that maximizes value while remaining true to your brand. The connection to the event only works if it’s done in an authentic meaningful way.
- Don’t Get Lost in Translation – A common mistake – a brand fails to embrace the local culture of a market. Brazil has a culture all its own. Don’t force an American-centric concept and expect it to automatically translate. Be sure that programs are authentic and tailored for the local market perspective.
- Own, Don’t Rent – Brands are most vulnerable if they appear to be “renting” equity of the local market, swooping in for a brief activation and leaving abruptly once the tournament concludes. Brands should aspire to be a part of a solution and leave a positive legacy, which gives them the best chance of achieving results that last beyond the event’s conclusion.
- Words Mean Everything – While sponsors are a natural target for protestors, don’t make it easy. As an example, McDonald’s #CheersToSochi Olympic social program became a platform for consumers worldwide to share their political views about Russia. Careful thought and attention to language will help prevent similar situations.
- Be Prepared – Anticipating the unexpected long before the tournament begins allows stakeholders to prepare for any eventuality. Taking executives through live simulations and table-top exercises is invaluable. Then setting up a virtual 24/7 war room to monitor activity across all channels is critical to determine when to join or walk away from the conversation.
In addition to fans, marketers will be watching Brazil and the FIFA World Cup with even greater interest, given this is the first of a doubleheader, with the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics a mere two years away. Never has the pressure been greater on Brazil and sponsors, as this is really about so much more than a game.
Image by Thomás.