As we approach the final days before the much-anticipated, yet highly controversial 2022 Qatar World Cup kicks off, it’s that time again for brands to step up their promotional activities and look to capitalise on the unparalleled attention the tournament receives.
With this in mind, I’ve picked out 5 noteworthy World Cup brand campaigns from this year… some of which hit the back of the net, whilst others have sent PR teams scrambling to rebuild reputations in Row Z.
Nike FC bring together the footballing greats from past, present and future
Over the years, we’ve learnt to expect big things from Nike when it comes to football advertising, with the sportswear brand boasting an abundance of cult-classic commercials. Whilst topping the nostalgia-fueled ads we remember from previous decades might seem to be an impossible task, this year’s World Cup ad has definitely impressed.
Seeking to answer the timeless debate of: “Who is the greatest player of all time?”, the ad depicts a group of curious scientists who decide to settle the dispute by transporting some of the World Cup’s best talent from past, present, and future to compete against each other.
One thing’s for sure, the production certainly wasn’t cheap – with top-end special effects throughout and a star-studded talent roster, including; Kylian Mbappé, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, and… someone’s uncle?
Whilst the ad is brilliant from an entertainment perspective, I’m not sure it persuades me to go and raid the Nike store. Rather, I want to spark a heated football debate amongst my mates. I can see where they were going with the call to action at the end, but I think the brand link needs to be clearer. Perhaps it would’ve been better suited to a broadcaster. Nevertheless, great ad.
Brewdog label themselves “Proud Anti-Sponsor of the World Cup”
✅ Take a stand against the World Cup host’s alleged corruption and human rights abuse
✅ Promise to dedicate profits to help fight the cause
⬜ Provide transparency in your plans to generate sales from the campaign
Upon first glance, Brewdog’s “Anti World Cup” campaign appears to be a textbook CSR campaign, tackling an issue head-on by bringing it to the forefront of conversation and detailing what they, as a brand, will be doing to combat it.
However, you only have to skim through their Twitter mentions to question the authenticity of the campaign and discover the ugly truth behind the maverick drinks brand’s so-called virtuous gesture, with one user highlighting the fact they will still be showing the tournament in their bars:
but you’re still showing the tournament? Isn’t that just supporting them?
— Q̡̙u͚̮̲e̗̯̼̻e͜n ͉̭̱̗̫͓͠S̭͔̺̰͖͇̀m̫͉ò̫͈̮̟̗͉͙o̗ș̺͉h (@sheepdean) November 7, 2022
In addition, some users have also accused the brand’s CEO of hypocrisy, after allegations the company has a culture of bullying and harassment:
“Meaning we can still take peoples money while pretending to care about human rights” 😆😆 pic.twitter.com/O3su8hK1B9
— Pooks 🔴 (@6xDJP) November 8, 2022
Whilst it’s no secret that Brewdog’s purposefully provocative tone of voice has a marmite-like propensity, I know which side of the fence I’m on.
Paddy Power release album featuring classical spin on popular football chants
On a more light-hearted note, here’s one that got it right. Ahead of the tournament, vertically-blessed ex-England footballer Peter Crouch has teamed up with an unlikely partner in opera star Paul Potts to release a charity Christmas album, ‘Crouchy Conducts The Classics’.
Songs include a hilarious classical take on staple terrace football chants such as ‘You’re Not Singing Any More’, ‘VAR My Lord’ and ‘England Till I Die’.
What’s more, Paddy Power have promised to donate 100% of the album’s profits and £25,000 of their own money to LTBTQ+ charity Stonewall, with the aim of tackling oppression during the World Cup and beyond.
Whilst Paddy Power’s underlying intentions are ultimately not too dissimilar to Brewdog’s, this campaign provides a clear example as to how tone of voice, transparency, and effective use of talent can result in a vastly different response from consumers.
Budweiser becoming the official World Cup sponsor in a nation that prohibits public drinking
Next up is a planning blunder from Budweiser, who reportedly forked out a whopping $112m (£94m) to be the tournament’s official alcohol sponsor.
However, a last-minute U-turn from the Qatari hosts declared that beer will not be sold to fans within the perimeter of any of the nation’s eight World Cup stadiums, just 2 days before the start of the tournament.
🚨 Beer is out at the World Cup.
After all that (alcoholic) beer will now not be sold inside the perimeter at all eight of Qatar’s World Cup stadiums.
Big about-face means FIFA now faces contractual nightmare with Budweiser.
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) November 18, 2022
Understandably, Budweiser were pretty miffed off with the news, posting a brief yet all-revealing response on their official Twitter account, which has since been deleted:
This whole debacle is a serious no-no in the legal world, with FIFA risking a breach of its multimillion-dollar contract with Budweiser if it is not allowed to sell its product or have visibility at the matches.
Whilst I admit that I do feel like Budweiser has been hard done by here, perhaps an alcohol brand becoming the official World Cup sponsor of a nation that enforces a zero-tolerance policy for drinking in public wasn’t a bulletproof strategy.
Pepsi’s ‘Nutmeg Royale’ short film
Ending on a high, we close this article with this masterpiece from Pepsi.
This sensationally entertaining short film is overflowing with nuanced cultural references, humour, and football icons. Likewise, the ad’s unobtrusive product placement and evocative yet anti-inflammatory representation of the tournament’s host nation means it ticks all my boxes.
Despite their fierce rivals, Coca-Cola, being an official sponsor in Qatar, this ad has definitely stolen the show. Plus, we got to see the GOAT hit a quintuple wall-bang nutmeg!
In summary, the Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola rivalry is one that many have had to come to terms with in their own lives, myself included. However, I think this advert may have converted me into a Pepsi apologist. Your move, Coke.