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Major sports events are also interesting for ambush marketers – the case of the FIFA World Cup.

Given the strength and the scope of the FIFA World Cup as a forceful marketing vehicle, it is no surprise that we witness a scenario where the global appeal of football (soccer) attracts the interest of a wide variety of corporations. Major sports events like the FIFA World Cup (and other major events like the Olympic Games, the Super Bowl, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Tour de France or Wimbledon Tennis Championships) from different sectors and even a large pool of non-FIFA-sponsors, which are strategic about the opportunity to capitalize on a non-official association with the given sport or sports event. Thus, the non-sponsor strives to achieve outcomes similar to official sponsors but without paying the huge official amount of money linked to being an official sponsor. Therefore, rights holders (FIFA, IOC etc.) are cognitive that they must do whatever it takes to prevent these situations where non-sponsors violate official sponsors. It is a difficult task to fully prevent non-sponsors (rights holders have a higher need for legal advise) from implementing promotional strategies through which they can monetize from the popularity and prestige of the event and sometimes non-sponsors are so smart that they leave the impression that they are part of the official sponsors for the event. For instance, Nike has surpassed the official FIFA sponsor Adidas measured on the number of kit deals per team in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

Additionally, Hyundai is the official car partner for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil but Volkswagen (VW) has definitely had the marketing strength of football in mind when launching it (ambush) marketing campaign for the Golf GTI. In the US, VW commercials feature on and and thereby conflicts Hyundai’s exclusive investment in TV halftime shows on ESPN and Univision (Ad Age, 2014 – see video below). VW has done well to integrate ‘localized content’ to cater to specific segments. Digital banners will show up when goals are scored and the audience will see Golf GTIs driving across the pitch in different colors, which match the colors of the team that scored. The creators have twisted the popular sports commentator rhetoric of ‘Goooooal’ and replaced it with ‘Goooooolf’ and that is a good strategy in terms of targeting specific buyers, e.g. younger and Hispanic car buyers that already like the Golf GTI.

VW also created a new TV commercial (‘Play by Play’), which features Argentinian sports commentator Andres Cantor. Cantor shows his son how to handle a Golf GTI. The well-known play-by-play commentator echoes a World Cup match announcement as he gives advice to his son.

Some additional 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil promotional initiatives from non-sponsors:

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