World Cup sponsors aren’t always obvious to consumers

GWI study shows the uncertain value of "official" sponsorship

Brand recognition is a fickle thing. With global soccer fans riveted to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, some sponsors of the beautiful game surely cringed when they saw the results of a recent GlobalWebIndex (GWI) study.

Conducted June 12, the first day of this year’s World Cup, the study shows people have sometimes foggy notions of the current lineup of official sponsors. The online brand recognition study was conducted with internet users aged 16-64 in the U.S., U.K. and host country, Brazil.

Providing an extensive list of brands — 38 in total — consisting of official sponsors and their competitors, the poll posed this simple question: “Which of the following brands is an official sponsor of World Cup 2014?”

Coca-Cola came out on top

A sponsor of the World Cup since 1978, it had the highest figures across all three countries. Eighty-five percent of respondents in Brazil chose the company as an official sponsor, as did roughly two-thirds of those in the U.S. and U.K. The fact that this year marks the company’s largest World Cup marketing campaign effort ever seems to have paid off.

It helps to be a long-standing sponsor

Adidas has been sponsoring the tournament since 1970, and it took the second-highest spot in the results. It was recognized by more than half of the respondents in each region polled.

The host nation knows its stuff when it comes to sponsors

Brazil had the highest level of core sponsor recognition.

Brands pumping soccer and its players are scoring World Cup brand recognition

Brands that aren’t officially sponsoring this World Cup but have soccer-related marketing campaigns in-market (think Nike and Samsung) earned a sizeable amount of (misguided) recognition as World Cup sponsors. In fact, more than 40% of respondents in Brazil thought Nike was sponsoring this year’s event, as did almost a third of people in the U.S. and U.K.

Sponsor deals erode, but people’s memories of them don’t always

Even though MasterCard’s official sponsorship of the World Cup ended in 2006, people still strongly associate the brand with the event; a whopping 38% overall picked it as a current sponsor. (Meanwhile, at 42%, official sponsor Visa didn’t score much higher.)

In a blog post about the findings, GWI analyst Jason Mander wrote that the company will monitor brand awareness levels throughout this World Cup, and will do another round of research on July 13 — the last day of the tournament. This will allow the company “to identify which sponsors have benefited from their association as well as which of the non-sponsor brands have successfully leveraged the buzz surrounding the tournament despite lacking any official connection,” wrote Mander.

To find out which brands came out on top (some rightfully, some more mysteriously), click here. 

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