Have our cities made the most of World Cup fever?

Steve Eakins's picture
Steve Eakins

This year’s World Cup has provided key marketing opportunities for brands who are willing to act fast and think big, and those who share similar target audiences would be crazy not to tap into the football fever spreading across the nation.

Alongside traditional sponsorship and advertising activity, event activation has played a huge part this year, helped by the virality of social posts sparking ‘wish you were here?’ moments with fans.

Whether that’s Budweiser launching its own exclusive fanzone boat or alternative football magazine Mundial hosting a pop-up screen at London’s Truman Brewery, this World Cup has seen brands hijacking the football fever to create their own stand out events left and right.

Last weekend’s England game was no exception. As primetime Saturday afternoon viewing, scores of restaurants and bars extended their usual weekend hours to pitch open air screens, half time happy hours and establish themselves as not just entertainment venues but leisure destinations.

Cities themselves have also widely realised the goodwill potential involved in hosting such events - national celebrations have always provided councils with opportunities to maximise community relations and this World Cup has been no different.

With London’s Hyde Park hosting 30,000 fans this Wednesday and Leeds council erecting a specially built football grandstand in Millennial Square throughout the tournament, fan zones have sprung up across the UK.

Yet England’s football capital, Manchester, has been conspicuous by its absence so far, with officials (well versed in community events) deciding the security needed for a big screen was one expense the Council budget could and would not cover. Calls for a fan zone were made by countless influencers across the city, receiving thousands of retweets and comments on social media.

For brands this has presented a fantastic opportunity to capitalise, and Auto Trader UK (which has its HQ in Manchester) has been quick to step up to the spot. Their branded fan zone will be held in one of Manchester’s biggest event spaces – the Castlefield Bowl, positioning the car sales website as truly in touch with its core customer base of 18-35 year old men and, in addition, demonstrating its loyalty to its home territory.

It took just 10 minutes for the 8,000 tickets to sell out after the event website went live on Monday evening, and the goodwill and leverage the brand will earn from the event will continue well after the match has ended.

Manchester Council’s loss to connect with the community has been Auto Trader UK’s gain, and there is no better example to highlight how news trends can be amplified and made more powerful through the use of an event format.

By casting the net wide with traditional sponsorship or advertising, the brand may have potentially missed out against the dearth of competitive marketing activity, but by hosting their own screening event, they have smartly tapped into a regional viral news trend which will serve it well going forward.

Whether they need to (and will) host another event for the Final remains to be seen, but as football continues to bring people closer across the nation, it’s also helping brands get one step closer to their customer through innovative event formats.”

Steve Eakins is MD at event agency Live Union, which has created events for the likes of Visa, Amazon and Oracle.