London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Football fever has engulfed the Middle East as well as its thriving advertising industry, in anticipation of arguably, the most important sports event in the world: the FIFA World Cup. Hosted in Germany, the 18 th World Cup will feature 32 teams from around the world, competing for global recognition and the ultimate prize.
Companies have sought to increase their advertising campaigns and tie-ins with participating nations and players, in an attempt to cash in on the cup’s huge following. Many local companies sponsor their country’s own team, hoping to achieve a number of aims: strengthening the name of the company and connecting it to the target audience, by exploiting national feelings, or using the media coverage to promote their products, especially where younger demographics are concerned.
International companies will also compete fiercely with each other in order to market their products, through the world’s most popular competition. Adidas, for example, expects to make $1.2 billion dollars this year, because of the high demand on world cup products, according to Agence France Presse.
Several local and international companies are sponsoring Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, who will represent the Arab world in the tournament. Homoud al Ghabini, public relations director at Mobily, the Saudi mobile operator sponsoring the national team, told Asharq al Awsat, that his organization has sought to strengthen its reputation inside the Kingdom as a new operator and establish strong ties with Saudi society.
With studies showing that the Kingdom’s youth are the most important segment of Saudi society, as they represent 70% of the Kingdom’s population, Mobily decided to sponsor activities young people are interested in, such as sports, including the Saudi national football league until 2007 and the national football team.
For his part, Alaa Saad, general manager of Mediavest, a media services agency in Saudi Arabia, said studies have demonstrated that the best way to reach an audience was to exploit feelings of nationalism, enabling the company to strengthen its relationship with consumers.
He added that sponsoring national events or sports events was a very useful way for companies to promote their services or highlight their name and trademark. The advertisements would be directed at young people who follow these events and are considered as future clients.
Mobily’s support of the Saudi football team was not aimed at increasing the sale of its services but rather, according to al Ghabini, raise its profile and increase consumer recognition. In ordinary circumstances, the company would expect to pay double the amount to achieve the same goal by advertising on television, billboards, in the print media and radio.
The company used personable slogans such as “the team is with us, why don’t you be as well?” and published the pictures of players on re-chargeable SIM cards as part of its sponsorship deal.
According to Saad, 80% of advertising revenue during the World Cup, will be focused on sports channels and special programs devoted to sports analysis and commentary. Companies in Saudi Arabia paid between $1million and $1.5 million to sponsor television channels which will cover the tournament.
Other important events on the advertising calendar in Saudi Arabia were al Jandariya festival and the “Other Jeddah”, as well as the month of Ramadan.