Why World Cup advertising is just as important as the beautiful game

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Not such a master stroke from MasterCard

With the World Cup only eight days away, the global popularity of 22 humans running after a ball has never been higher. The big sponsors are rolling out their megaphones to create the four yearly cacophony of noise. But against this backdrop brands who have not spent a vast sum of money on official association with FIFA and its premier global event might just be infiltrating the party.

CMOs of Visa, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Gazprom and new entrants like China’s Wanda - brands with long associations with football must all be asking how can we elevate our brands to encapsulate the pinnacle of sporting endeavour.

Yet Fifa has been mired in a crisis of its own making over the last few years. Accusations of corruption, bribery and even slavery have significantly compromised the organisation so they are not exactly a shining example of brand elevation. So toxic is the Fifa brand that Sony, Johnson & Johnson and BP’s Castrol have pulled out of the sponsorship.

In an apparent race to the bottom, two brands have attempted to follow Fifa's lead and set the bar incredibly low.

Mastercard’s ‘Goals for Meals’ campaign was a truly awful example of a marketing department briefing a campaign that had to include their ‘Priceless’ brand positioning, their key ‘influencers’ – Messi and Neymar Jr - and brand purpose. The intention would be to elevate the brand beyond the (at least multiple use) plastic that helps you buy your coffee in the morning. Instead they created a dystopian Frankenstein.

For those not familiar with this utter shitshow, for every goal Messi or Neymar scored, Mastercard would donate 10,000 meals to hungry children. Yes, that’s every time a footballer, paid hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds a week kicks a ball into a net thousands of children would be fed.

It is inconceivable how anyone in the entire Mastercard marketing ecosystem did not think that this was not just a bad idea but truly obscene. You can almost see the starving children crowding around a window outside a bar showing an Argentina game, heads dropping and tummies rumbling as Messi hits the post. Dystopian, bleak comparisons have been understandably made with the Hunger Games.

Hot on the heels of Mastercard’s now withdrawn campaign comes Paddy Power. A marketing department with head of mischief on one of their business cards have just released a campaign where an anonymous man approaches a wild polar bear and paints on its fur the flag of St George and the Paddy Power logo.

In a time of ecological collapse, Paddy Power has decided to exploit an animal officially classed as vulnerable, for commercial gain. I mean where do you even start? The metaphor for the rampant arrogance of the human race to place profit as the pinnacle of human endeavour while the world literally burns around us is breathtaking.

Campaigns such as these - devoid of ethics, entirely detached from society and the planet on which we live does not make me proud to be a marketer. It makes me almost want to leave the industry entirely.

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