World Cup 2018 Ads: Marketing to a Sidelined Audience

As the days counted down to the June 14 kickoff of the 2018 World Cup, two marketing-related questions emerged:

Which companies would attempt to reach American viewers despite the U.S. not making the tournament? And for those that did, what message would they send?

Taking stock of what was aired over the last month, it’s no surprise that American-based behemoths such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Visa aired the globally-focused ads that one would expect from them throughout the tournament.

In “We’re with you.,” McDonald’s let consumers from Iran to Iceland know that it’s open 24 hours, delivers, and serves breakfast:

Coca-Cola, similarly, aired its kickoff commercial in languages ranging from English to Arabic:

And Visa used Zlatan Ibrahimovi?, a former Swedish national team player, to send the message that you don’t have to miss a World Cup if you’ve got their card:

However a few brands did venture to target an American audience with specific messaging – and with mixed results.

In an early flub Wells Fargo, having already made marketing headlines for its long-running faux accounts apology campaign, set off a legit Twitterstorm by using Landon Donavon to suggest that the Cup was worth watching and that it was OK to root for Mexico:

 

Soccer-loving nation or not, Americans took to Twitter to blast Landon for his fandom, of course ignoring the fact that he’s played professionally in Mexico, it’s the closest country that qualified for the Cup, and he was obviously paid handsomely for the campaign.

In a more positively-received move, Volkswagen acknowledged the U.S. team’s absence and attempted to capitalize on Americans’ alleged lack of love for the beautiful game in its “Jump on the Wagon” campaign. The campaign featured VW-owners of various nationalities providing reasons for Americans to root for countries including…

Switzerland, Argentina, or Brazil:

And Belgium, Iceland, or Germany:

These were by far my personal favorites, and I loved seeing both as many games and as many unique ads as possible over the last month.

If you’re not a soccer fan and missed out on all of these, hopefully you enjoyed them.

If not, the Super Bowl is only about six months away!

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