Engaging with Football Fans in Asia

26 May 2014|Added Value

Not long ‘til kickoff and the assault on our senses from Brazil.  We’ll learn how to mix a caipirinha, shake a caxirola and embarrass ourselves attempting some Capoeira.  We might even watch some football.

But here in Asia the live games will be played when most are asleep – presenting a challenge to marketers seeking to leverage the global cultural phenomenon that is the FIFA 2014 World Cup Brazil.

Frankly, why should middle class Asian consumers care?  With the exceptions of Japan and Korea, there are no Asian participants and Asia boasts barely any global football stars.

But interest in football has never been higher.  Europe’s top leagues are available on TV 24/7 across Asia and every English Premier League team has Asian sponsors and partners.  AIA, the pan Asian insurer, recently signed a five year deal with Tottenham Hotspur for US$160m and have just concluded a two year deal as title sponsor for Football Dream.  This reality show, broadcast in China and enjoying government support, follows a group of young hopefuls as they try to achieve their “Football Dream” including traveling to the finest football academies in Europe.  Even politicians are paying attention – China’s President, Xi Jinping, has sought to burnish his public image through professing an interest in the beautiful game.

Football – a successful cultural import

The game in Asia has been handicapped by corruption, match fixing, inept administrators and (in some markets) poor infrastructure.  So foreign leagues have filled the gap.  Asians love the game – but just watch, whilst others play it.  This has gone hand in hand with the emerging middle class opening up to other, non-Asian cultures be it through the internet, cultural imports or greater foreign travel afforded by their growing wealth.

So football is clearly a powerful cultural import and is leveraged by brands seeking to build deeper engagement with football fans and consumers who want to be part of Brazil 2014.

Let’s look at a three different approaches being used in Asia.

Effective localisation

Pass masters Coke (a long time FIFA partner) know how to leverage global sponsorship deals at a local level.  In Hong Kong, the local activation of “The World’s Cup” – uses Cantonese slang to test consumers’ knowledge of football jargon.  Also in Hong Kong, property developer Sun Hung Kai will be broadcasting 56 matches live on big screens in 11 of their shopping malls.  Their stated aim is to enhance domestic bliss so husbands and boyfriends can take their partners and children shopping and for dinner…and then stay late for the match. Or alternatively pop out in the middle of the night and avoid waking up the family at home (an issue in tiny HK flats).  You may scoff – but shopping is a Hong Kong’s favourite past time and the developer is predicting 36.1 million visits to their malls over the tournament.

Original content

Tencent, China’s internet behemoth and #14 brand in the world according to BrandZ’s latest rankings has a team of 120 journalists, editors and photographers in Brazil to cover the event and produce unique content for a range of sponsors and advertisers.  In addition to live match coverage, Tencent’s focus is to provide the 500m+ users of its services with the social currency they need to share and experience the action.  Nike, Toyota, Budweiser, Head & Shoulders and local beer brand Tsingtao have all signed up as sponsors of on and off the field content including interviews with wives and girlfriends of stars, virtual reality product placement and a game where consumers take selfies to compare their looks to star players.

Work with other sponsors

In Malaysia, Johnson and Johnson (official healthcare sponsor) – didn’t try to fabricate a link with the World Cup.  Their global “Care Inspires Care™” platform is being heavily leveraged by programmes across Brazil and among event volunteers on site.  These are not initiatives which markets on the other side of the world can leverage easily.  So in Malaysia their “Road 2 Brazil” promotion offered competition winners a trip to Brazil and Adidas merchandise to runners-up.  Adidas are a long time FIFA partner and lend credibility to J&J’s activity in Malaysia – a smart collaboration between non-competing brands.

Written by Matthew Carr, Managing Director, Added Value Hong Kong.

Image credits: iStock

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