June 4 2018

Business Goals - Hinter den Kulissen der WM/ Behind the scenes of the World Cup

Germany, FIFA World Cup

Please find the English translation of the column below.

„Marketing goes Media“:  Anlässlich der FIFA Fußballweltmeisterschaft 2018 in Russland (14. Juni bis 15. Juli) haut Dennis Trautwein, Vice President von Octagon Germany, in die Tasten: In einer achtteiligen Kolumnenserie namens „Business Goals“ berichtet er auf der Plattform www.netzathleten.de über die komplexe Welt der Agentur-Aufgaben rund um die FIFA-Partner und -Sponsoren, über organisatorische, logistische wie auch kulturelle Herausforderungen vor und während eines solchen Mega-Events. 

Den ersten Teil der Kolumne finden sie auf Netzathleten hier.


04 Jun 2018 Dennis Trautwein

It was during my second World Cup: 2010 in South Africa. That moment that let things really sink in and triggered a lasting “aha”-effect in me. The first World Cup on the African continent was the event of a century for the people there, a proof point, 16 years after the end of apartheid – you could feel it in those weeks and months. This World Cup was a sign. We visited a township with a group of colleagues and customers upon an invitation of an Octagon employee from Soweto. For one part of the group – the majority being white – it was the first time visiting such a settlement, even though many of them had been living in Johannesburg all of their lives. It really touched me. When the host scored its first World Cup goal in Jo’-burg against Mexico, people of the Soweto township were dancing and celebrating in the streets. Witnessing these pure emotions in this environment was significant for me.

Dear reader, my column is called “Business Goals” – because the Football World Cup is undoubtedly a billion dollar business. As Vice President at Octagon Germany, I’m right in the middle of it.

Especially parts of the media like to often talk about the deep rift between the football tradition and its commercialization, between the fan base and big business, as represented by FIFA, its governing body – and in the end us as marketing experts as well. But this representation falls short, despite legitimate criticism. I do not want to retreat to the fact that no one will turn back the clock. As guest columnist of ‘Netzathleten’, I want to provide you with a behind-the-scenes look away from the pitch, as well as offer and encourage a change in perspective. What’s important to me is to show, that a World Cup is a huge celebration of emotions. It is a celebration primarily for fans, not for companies and their customers. It is the biggest and longest sporting event in the world that captivates everyone. Such power, such a connecting force, would never be achieved by a World Cup without emotions and passion. You can’t just buy an experience such as mine at the townships of Soweto. Emotions have to be organic and in the end, this is what my job is all about as well.

We are onsite in Russia, in different shapes and forms, for five FIFA partners: Gazprom, AB InBev (Budweiser), Kia Motors, Hublot and Alfa Bank.

There are three different sponsorship levels starting with this World Cup: There are FIFA partners, who have commercial access to all events of the federation. At the second level are World Cup sponsors, who own global rights for the World- and Confederations Cup, which however excludes e.g. the women’s or U21 World Cups. In addition, for the first time, for Russia there are partners, who can only use the FIFA brands in one of five regions. Even though FIFA was able to sell a few more packages in Europe this close to the event, it is well known that they had a hard time selling regional packages. Outside of Europe, only one package has been able to be assigned to China. The sluggish sale hasn’t made our job any easier either, by the way.

The World Cup in Russia is my fourth one. By now, I believe I can very well call myself an insider. Nevertheless, each World Cup has its own character, its own challenges – organizationally, logistically socially and culturally. Russia has different structures, a different life- and work mentality. However, in comparison, it is closer to the German one than it was the case for South Africa or Brazil.  When working in different cultural settings, you have to be able to see things from the hosts’ perspective, understand their point of view.  Without this aptitude, it is much harder to find solutions.

Starting June 4th, I’ll be in Russia, where thought out plans will become reality. The extent of the challenge that awaits us can somewhat be anticipated, based on our wealth of experience, but only onsite you truly leave the conceptual level. At an event as large as this one and the tremendous complexities that you encounter, you will get pushed to the limit.

I’ll be reporting about this and much more, once I’m onsite. I’m looking forward to it!


Dennis Trautwein


About Dennis Trautwein:

The football World Cup in Germany in 2006 was Dennis Trautwein’s personal ‘Sommermärchen’ (summer fairy tale) – the first World Cup experience for the then 26-year-old. His job at the World Cup Organizing Committee was the perfect entry into his career – and a lasting one. World Cups were going to play a major role for the now 38-year-old upon his start with Octagon Germany in 2007. His strategic focus was on the following FIFA World Cups in 2010, 2014 – and of course now the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Dennis Trautwein is one of the leading sport marketing experts in this country – and an absolute connoisseur of the scene.