LONDON: With Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco making it through to the group stages of the FIFA World Cup, Arab teams have their best-ever presence at the world’s biggest sporting event and brands are seizing the opportunity.
Across the MENA markets — and all over the world — global brands are already vying for the attention of football fans through mass-budget TV and social media campaigns.
Drinks firm Coca-Cola led the charge for Saudi Arabian mindshare by becoming the official sponsor of the Saudi National Team, as well as the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Coca-Cola has said that it will show its support for the Saudi Arabian team with branding and signage on and off the field and will back the squad as they aim to qualify for all upcoming international and regional tournaments.
The FIFA World Cup, which is set to get under way in Russia on June 14, will add $2.4 billion to global advertising spend this year, according to research from advertising agency ZenithOptimedia.
“The World Cup provides a reliable boost to the global ad market every four years, and will be responsible for 10 percent of all the growth in ad dollars this year,” said Jonathan Barnard, Zenith’s head of forecasting and director of global intelligence. “This year’s tournament will showcase the brand-building powers of both traditional television and social media.”
The tournament also offers opportunities for nations and national teams to gain global recognition.
Experts said that Saudi Arabia in particular could benefit from the global exposure a World Cup football team affords.
“Sport can be a very effective way of boosting wider awareness of a country and its brand strategy and offer,” said Malcolm Allen, president of Bloom Consulting.
“The fact that their team is in the World Cup will be a source of national pride to Saudi citizens and, by association, they will see and hear their country being discussed more intensively, at least over the near future.”
According to Bryn Anderson, COO of brand measurement firm Brand Finance, there will be “global interest” in the fact that Saudi Arabia is competing at such a high level.
Anderson told Arab News: “It’s only the fourth time in history the Saudi team has made it through to the World Cup. Even if they don’t get past the first group, it will still have a positive impact on their brand.”
Anderson also noted that Egypt being in the same match group as Saudi Arabia will create “some regional rivalry and buzz.”
He added that Saudi Arabia would be able to leverage some of its star players for the benefit of the Kingdom’s national brand and Saudifootballing star Mohammad Al-Sahlawi could help to do for Saudi Arabia what Mohamed Salah has done for Egypt.
According to Anderson, Saudi Arabia has historically been viewed by the world as a “closed” society but ongoing economic and social reforms are helping to change that perception.
“The world is seeing that Saudi Arabia’s identity is slowly evolving and the World Cup only adds to all the efforts that the world is seeing from Saudi Arabia. The World Cup appearance will have a compounding positive effect on the national brand … even if the team doesn’t make it past the first group.”