Creativity Brand Strategy Duolingo

Duolingo co-opts some World Cup buzz by sponsoring ‘the other Qatar’

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By Webb Wright | Reporter

November 9, 2022 | 5 min read

The language-learning company has also launched a translation tool to help soccer fans encourage and diss (but mostly diss) their peers in other countries.

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Duo the owl has become the official mascot of Qatar FC, an amateur soccer team based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / Duolingo

Como se dice, “loophole?”

Duolingo is hoping to capitalize off of the hype surrounding the 2022 Fifa World Cup – which kicks off in Qatar later this month – by launching two campaigns that have nothing to do (at least not officially) with the international sporting event.

The popular language learning app announced today that it has become the official sponsor of Qatar Football Club, an amateur soccer team based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which it has dubbed ‘the other Qatar.’

According to Duolingo, brands are not allowed to mention either Fifa or the World Cup in any official communications unless they’re an official partner of the organization or the event; and so the company is hoping to bypass this rule – and still remain on the right side of the law – by becoming the official sponsor of a team that (sort of) shares the same name as the event itself.

Through the sponsorship, Qatar FC players will wear jerseys emblazoned with the Duolingo logo. Duo the owl – famous for his TikTok antics – has also been named the team’s official mascot.

To promote ‘the other Qatar’ campaign, Duolingo sent out a press release that looked like it had come under the pen of a Soviet censor: names and phrases had been conspicuously removed from every paragraph – the brand’s cheeky way of reassuring Fifa that the campaign definitely, certainly has nothing to do with its international and beloved sporting event. Because that would be illegal.

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"Duolingo has always celebrated language and the role it plays in bringing people together," says James Kuczynski, Duolingo's creative director, marketing and brand. "Our aim with the 'other Qatar' is to tap into a truly global event where language plays a significant role and show up in a way that only our subversive brand would. By using a bit of clever language and sponsoring Qatar FC, we created a fun moment that actually helped a local sports team in the process."

Alongside the Qatar FC sponsorship, Duolingo has announced the launch of the ‘Fowl Word Generator’ (some more wordplay there for you), an online tool that can help soccer fans get into the hooligan spirit by translating eccentric cheers or disses into foreign languages. Some examples provided by the brand: “¡Vaya pepinazo! (What a great big cucumber!)” and “진짜 똥볼이었어 (That was a real poop ball).”

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