According to the YouGov Brand Index which is a tool which tracks the perceptions of the consumer towards various brands through a variety of events, Sony, Coca Cola and Pepsi are the winners of the competition to field the most successful promotional campaigns in conjunction with the World Cup. Those three brands were seen to be obtaining the most positive social media chatter, while the big loser was McDonalds who ranked at the bottom of the “buzz score” list of major brand advertisers with more negative conversation about it than any other. What lessons can you learn from the World Cup sponsors and non-sponsors about paying huge sums for affiliation with major events vs. engaging in good ol’ fashioned guerilla marketing?

Non-sponsor Pepsi wins the cost/benefit analysis

What makes the fact that Pepsi is in the top three extremely surprising is the fact that they are not in any way a World Cup sponsor, but they used time-honored guerilla methods where they ran an extremely soccer centered campaign right through the lead-up and into the World Cup schedule. Their word of mouth score of overall brand awareness was up 4% vs. Coca Cola’s 5%. Given that Coke was an official sponsor who had shelled out a huge number of millions of dollars for that right, in the final analysis Pepsi likely comes out the cost/benefit analysis winner by a landslide.

McDonalds was an official sponsor and lost 6% over baseline

Another case of official sponsor vs. tag along marketer was Adidas and Nike. Adidas also did their share to enrich the coffers of FIFA but was literally in a dead heat with Nike who didn’t pay the soccer federation a dime. Their results right through the World Cup period were literally too close to call, and Nike is likely laughing all the way to the bank. A sponsor who is likely crying all the way to the bank is MickeyD’s who literally flooded the entire world with a barrage of World Cup ads and promotions and ended up losing 6% from the baseline. Therefore when you compare the rise in Pepsi’s buzz with the drop in McD’s score there is a difference of 10%. You pay FIFA and you lose, you don’t pay them and you win. Welcome to the upside down world of guerilla event marketing!

Official sponsorship is no guarantee of ROI

As a brand marketer you can certainly follow the lead of these major corporations who have chosen to not write a huge check to FIFA in your own event themed campaigns. Since in the final analysis “official sponsorship” is in no way a guarantee of a return on investment (ROI) to obtain that sponsorship, you may want to embrace the concept of guerilla marketing in your own way. The NFL has absolutely stratospheric charges to become a sponsor of the Super Bowl, for example, and they will be charging nearly $4 million for a 30 second spot on the broadcast of American Football’s premiere event. If your brand is not in that same “league” as the ones who can afford such voluminous investments in the glory of the NFC vs. AFC game, there are literally countless methods that you can piggyback on the Super Bowl’s massive audience appeal.

Generic football uniforms aired in January = Super Bowl connection

NFL football may be the only professional American Football league but that doesn’t mean that it is a monopoly over every form of football! Advertisers for decades have been running football ads showing players in generic uniforms to avoid paying the NFL its substantial vigorish. If an ad or a promotion is running in January and it features huge musclebound men in full football uniforms smashing into each other, the vast majority of the audience is most likely going to make the connection to the Super Bowl even though you have never indicated a connection with anything at all which is the intellectual property of the NFL.

No matter what the event you can choose to not become officially affiliated while still garnering the benefits of associating your brand with the buzz. That’s a winning formula!