The World Cup and the beautiful game of football provide many opportunities for a country’s best to shine on the international stage in front of billions of people. And a large portion of what funds and allows events such as the FIFA World Cup to occur is the result of associated marketing deals.
Actual event ticket sales only accounted for about 11% of FIFA’s 2014 World Cup revenue. Of the overall EUR 4.0 billion in revenue from 2014, approximately 83% came, in some form from today’s word, with 33%, or, if you prefer, EUR 1.3 billion, in the direct form, such as ads on or around the pitch. As you might have guessed, today’s word is sponsor.
Though the word has maintained the same spelling from its Late Latin root, the meaning behind it has changed. First used in 1651, in Richard Baxter’s Plain Scripture proof of infants church-membership and baptism (“How could the Sponsors be endangered while there were Parents?”), our word was more akin to the idea of godparents, with the meaning being ‘someone who sponsors an infant at baptism’.
From a strictly ecclesiastical beginning in English, our word, within a couple of decades, had started to be used in common English as meaning ‘someone who makes a promise or pledge on behalf of someone else’, as can be seen in Guy Miege’s A new dictionary, French and English (1677), which defines the word as simply: “Sponsor, or surety that is undertaken for another.”
While it is easy to see how this usage of our word is moving closer towards our modern understanding, the concept relative to commercial advertisement wouldn’t be applied until 1931, when, firstly, Peter Dixon wrote in Radio Writing that: “The sponsor wants a dramatic type of program and is willing to spend one thousand dollars a week for the program” and, secondly, NBC’s Frank Arnold, the author of High Sports in Broadcast Techniques and one of the supporters of the idea of direct advertising as a primary source of financing radio broadcasting, in his Broadcast Advertising uses sponsor as synonymous to advertiser: “The sponsor or advertiser”.
As we all know, typical advertising is meant to introduce innovation and drive sales; however, when it comes to a global event like this, especially for the direct sponsorship, it is all about name recognition on the world stage, and that can be very telling.
For example, the regionality of the game and the growth of the game often give rise to different sponsors: aside from the truly global brands, such as Coca-Cola, Adidas, and Visa, growth of the game in China is leading Chinese sponsors, such as Hisense, Vivo, and the Wanda Group, making an active sponsorship investment to assert their brands both globally and to the domestic Chinese audience.
Considering that the revenue of the 2015-2018 FIFA cycle has more than doubled that of the 1999-2002 cycle, it is difficult to imagine what the opportunities (and costs) will be for sponsors seeking brand recognition in another 2 decades – you know, when you get tired of watching them kick the ball around.