March 29 2018

Russia is calling! Thoughts on the upcoming FIFA World Cup

UK, FIFA World Cup, Octagon UK, Partnerships, Creative Marketing Agency

The Premier League is nearing its (inevitable sky blue) conclusion, and with that, the debate in the office has intensified around the England midfield starting line-up.

However, it is not just the on-field anticipation driving excitement; the team is gearing up for some major off-field action too… having started the year with three major new business wins; adding Gazprom, Hublot, and Kia Motors to our client list of FIFA World Cup™ official partners, which already includes longstanding relationships with ABInbev & Alfa Bank.

And so, with the countdown officially on, and the column inches growing rapidly, we have turned to our expert in-house football commentators for their thoughts on the summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Phil Carling, Global Football MD, identifies the trends to expect from sponsors:

Russia 2018 will be a landmark World Cup for FIFA and its Sponsors as the organization emerges from an undoubtedly difficult period. The key elements will be the number of new and relatively inexperienced commercial partners and the challenges that the host country would pose to any brand in terms of size, geography, infrastructure and politics.

The experienced parties such as Budweiser, Adidas, McDonalds and Visa will concentrate on doing the basics well. So expect well-crafted creative themes, supported by major media budgets amplified across all the worlds’ key markets.

In Russia, hospitality, ticketing and signage will be key, with most brands focusing budgets on the major cities and matches. We expect that B2B will dominate the agenda, with distance, cost and infrastructure likely reducing the number of visiting fans and the duration of their stay. The same factors will mean that content creation and amplification via social media channels will be especially important.

The 2018 World Cup will be notable for the sheer number of new partners from markets not previously associated with either FIFA or major Global sports events. This relative lack of experience brings into sharper focus the role and responsibility of agencies expert in leveraging and amplifying such events. Octagon, following on from its success in Brazil, will be five out of the twelve official FIFA World CupTM partners. For new partners, the key will be to go beyond getting the basics right to build a unique creative position and fully utilize the assets to tell their brand story and create a genuine connection to both the sport and its Global fan base.

Matthieu Fenaert, Executive Director, Russia, compares and contrasts the differences between Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018:

At Octagon, we help our clients earn attention by tapping into fans' passion for sports and entertainment, and it is clear there is passion for football in both Brazil and Russia. In Brazil, football is like a religion, and the host country was intent on displaying its prowess both on and off the pitch. In Russia, consumer passion for football is growing, and the overarching sentiment is one of national pride.

From my perspective, having ran the Octagon office in Brazil before moving to Moscow, Russia is committed to showing the world that it is a modern country, which can once again successfully host a major international sporting event. A clear proof that Russia is on the right path is the truly impeccable FIFA Confederations Cup they organized last year, with fully occupied and modern venues, enthusiastic fans and flawless stadium operations.

In terms of partners, the main difference I see compared to Brazil in 2014 is how China has become a major player in the FIFA World Cup sponsorship landscape. With four spots in the current sponsorship roster, Chinese-owned companies like Wanda Group, Hisense, Vivo and Mengniu Group represent the largest contingent from one single country and show a clear trend for the future. As the only full service creative marketing agency with local resources in both Russia and China, we hope to continue our trend of successful work for FIFA partners.