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LEISURE & ENTERTAINMENT | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Chris Reed

Does Singapore care about the World Cup?

BY CHRIS REED

Is the World Cup in danger of passing Singapore by? I say that on the basis that there is very little commercial and marketing activity by brands around the World Cup actually going on in Singapore. Is this because the Great Singapore Sale dominates every June and July or because brands can’t justify the marketing or do they think people here don’t care?

The World Cup kicks off on June 12th and is a festival of football that Singapore’s myriad of passionate football fans will doubtless enjoy. Unfortunately every game kicks off at times between midnight and 6am. Is this why businesses don’t seem especially bothered by the World Cup? These timings are going to mean some very sleepy Singaporean residents.

SingTel’s Mio Stadium as the primary broadcaster will be showing countless match repeats throughout the day. However there is nothing like watching games either live or at least without knowing the score to experience the same tension and excitement as watching a game without knowing the end result.

With the outcry of the supposedly high prices that SingTel were charging for the tournament (actually free if you’re already a football fan and have Mio Stadium anyway) and aggravated negotiations with rival broadcaster StarHub over exactly what they can and cannot show, The People’s Association have teamed up with Singapore Pools and SingTel to ensure that 30 community venues will show the tournament to everyone else who doesn’t want to or can’t afford to have the World cup on their own TV’s.

You can of course place a bet on the result at the same time which is about the only way Singapore Pools is allowed to market themselves in a country that bans most betting (that isn’t partly or wholly linked in some way to the government) and all marketing of betting brands.

Based on a quick look at the Singapore Pools website, that’s probably just as well. They seem to be slightly confused over who has actually qualified for the World Cup and have included both the Greek and Irish flags (who both wish they had qualified) alongside the Brazil and German flags (who are nations that will actually be playing at the event).

I have actually been surprised by the lack of football-related activity from both the Official World Cup brands and guerrilla activity by unofficial brands desperately trying to get some kind of connection to the tournament.

Some of the unofficial brands have missed their goal completely like Giant’s entire football-themed extravaganza of German and Italian bedclothes and cushions for sale. Some brands have been caught off side such as CapitaMalls attempt to capitalise on the tournament through a clumsy spend linked promotion.

So far there has been no activity from leading supermarket retailers Cold Storage and FairPrice who you would expect to be focused on beer, drink, and snack brand promotions along with takeaway meals and convenience food. They should be trying to associate themselves with the event by coming up with itheir normal displays of flags and footballs as they have done previously. If only they would be more imaginative.

Currently Cold Storage seem more interested in a Sound of Music promotion and there is no point of sale even connected to official sponsors like Budweiser and Coke. Budweiser have created special edition “Rise as one” gold coloured World Cup bottles and cans. I haven’t seen anything that they are doing specifically in Singapore.

There is always a thin line between official sponsors and unofficial ones trying to get in on the act by association. Coffee shops, bars, fastfood delivery brands, snack foods, drink products, and TV retailers should be the ones to benefit the most from the World Cup whether they are an official sponsor or not.

McDonalds are an official sponsor of the World Cup but they appear to have forgotten this as with only a week or so to go they have nothing currently in store, nothing on their website, and only Hello bloody Kitty on their facebook page.

However in June (one week after the rest of the world) McDonalds are rolling out the changing of its medium and large fry boxes creative to celebrate the World Cup. They will be offering 12 different World Cup-themed designs featuring work from artists commissioned from around the world. The fries boxes will also serve as the entry point for an augmented-reality game on their new World Cup app.

The same could be said of official sponsor Coca-Cola who are doing minimal activity in Singapore. Even their official website in Singapore doesn’t mention that they are a sponsor. They have previously released special edition World Cup cans but that has now switched to unbranded ones with some very functional wording on 6 packs talking about the World Cup. Why pay all this money to be an official sponsor and not leverage it in store and online?

Milo have attempted to become associated with the World Cup unofficially by running a promotion to win $10k of TigerAir vouchers illustrated bizarrely by a footballer in a Milo green strip. No sense to the promotion except to desperately be connected to the World Cup in any way.

Brazilian brand Havaianas are running an interesting unofficial World Cup sales promotion campaign in Tangs and their own stores to get a limited edition shoe bag and key chain if you buy their country-themed flip flops. The countries illustrated with the colours of the country concerned just happen to be all those nations competing in the World Cup in Brazil.  

McDonalds and Hyudai have teamed up The Straits Times to offer some lucky winners the chance to go to Brazil and be mascots. They also claim that there will be viewing parties at McDonalds during the tournament too but no details are available as I write this.

Visa in Singapore have been one of the most prominent official sponsors to be marketing their association in Singapore with specific spend and win trips to the tournament promoted for months before the event itself.

Hyundai is at least using the official logo on their facebook page in Singapore unlike McDonalds Singapore, Visa Singapore, and Castrol Singapore, amongst others. 

Castrol are actually an official sponsor but I have seen nothing of their activities in Singapore. Competitive brand and non-sponsor Caltex, on the other hand, have decided to launch a “Supa Strikers” facebook sponsorship in Singapore to capitalise on the association between all male-orientated things like oil, petrol, and tyres with the World Cup. Continental are also an official sponsor but I haven’t seen any of their exploitation activity in Singapore.   

Johnson and Johnson are also an official sponsor but I have seen no activity in Singapore connected to the World Cup. This is unlike Gillette who are not a World Cup sponsor but are an official sponsor of the Brazilian national football team and have created a special edition Brazilian-coloured razor with official Brazil logo, nicely side-stepping the official World Cup association rules.

Sony have been promoting TV’s and their official association with the World Cup through direct mails/newspaper adverts and TV spots. They are another brand who are doing much more outside of Singapore than inside by launching a global social media platform. In Singapore there is POS in places like Best Denki and Harvey Norman around the TV’s with a QR code but that is linked to a one-for-one sales promotion, not their social media platform.

One brand to have already started a campaign in Singapore is The National Council on Problem Gambling who have created a campaign targeted to run throughout the World Cup which will be educating the public on the negative impact of gambling and promoting awareness.

Adidas are about the only official World Cup brand in Singapore to have really gone all out (or all in) for the World Cup. They have changed all their windows and front of retail displays to be World Cup-focused whereas Nike haven’t even got a football in theirs.

So overall you can walk into any mall in Singapore and not really know that the World Cup was on. Is Singapore in general bothered or is this early hours World Cup only for the hardened fan?

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed has 25 years of senior marketing experience on both the client and agency side in the UK and now in Asia Pacific. He is the CEO and founder of Black Marketing.

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