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PR, Pop Culture, Social Media, Sports

April 6, 2010

The 2010 FIFA World Cup and Global Public Relations

Tags: American Idol, david bisbal, fifa, futbol, operacion triunfo, soccer, world cup

The 2010 FIFA World Cup and Global Public Relations

Guest post by Andi Narvaez, public relations and social media professional and graduate student at University of Maryland. Co-founder of The BMPR, founder of Social Media Breakfast DC chapter, and Social Media Club-DC officer. Read her blog and follow her on.

Two years ago, my best friend came to visit my home country of Ecuador for the summer. One night, we went to a bar because an Ecuadorian soccer team was playing the semifinals of the 2008 Copa Libertadores. The final score was 0-0, which helped Liga de Quito, the Ecuadorian team, advance to the finals where they destroyed their Brazilian opponents and won the cup. Needless to say, this was the most anticlimactic day of my best friend’s life. And to this day she can’t understand how it can be possible for people to get as rowdy as we did that day when, for 90 minutes, not a single point was scored. Basketball has spoiled her.

In 63 days and less than 20 hours from the time this post goes live — give or take — the moment I’ve been anxiously waiting for four years will finally be here. And my friend couldn’t care less.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is the greatest sport tournament in the world to me. And after a semester in my “Global Public Relations” course in graduate school I finally have an argument to support this statement that is not, “because soccer is the best sport in the world… and shut up.”

For those of us in public relations and social media, the world matters. Others matter. The beautiful thing about culture and diversity is that they make the world we live in a lot less boring and predictable; however, that is also the greatest challenge we face.

The FIFA World Cup gives us the rare opportunity to learn more about other cultures by either observing or, in my case, participating in UBER fandom. I’m talking body-painting, screaming, perspiring, crying, drinking, cursing… fandom. You might be thinking, “umm, it’s called the Olympics! Hellooo!” But to that I say, nay. The thing about soccer is that people live it and breathe it. Back home, in Ecuador, businesses shut down for it. Additionally, the researcher in me thinks that the World Cup is our chance to see all attributes of all the different cultures under the influence of a single variable — soccer.

Public relations and social media professionals should pay special attention to what will go down in about two months. In fact, start paying attention now to how FIFA is communicating about this event and turning it into not just a soccer tournament, but a global public relations phenomenon and case study:

Por ejemplo:

(A blog post AND a Spanish lesson?? You’re welcome)

  • FIFA has a hospitality program set in place, ready to welcome everyone who comes to South Africa for the World Cup. This the the first time an African nation is hosting the World Cup and FIFA is making the most of this opportunity by showcasing a culture and embracing everyone who will come into contact with it for the very first time.
  • Over the past few years, the most amazing stadiums have been built for the soccer matches. South Africa’s infrastructure has benefited from this event. Jobs were created. Tourism will bloom. And that, folks, is how a soccer tournament becomes a public diplomacy mission.
  • Although the World Cup is a competition, if everyone has fun it doesn’t matter who wins in the end. Ok… I’m not even buying that one. Still, it’s interesting to see how FIFA and the fans deal with rivalries while still promoting togetherness.
  • Coke and Hyundai, two major sponsors, have already launched worldwide initiatives with crowdsourcing and digital/social media components. The values of cultural diversity and togetherness are both present in these campaigns. Global public relations FTW.

I leave you with the official song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Now, if this doesn’t inspire you to take your public relations practices to the next level and think outside of your own culture’s box, I don’t know what will.

PS: The guy singing in Spanish is David Bisbal, a winner of Spain’s “Operación Triunfo” (a.k.a. American Idol). Boom. Right when you thought I would end without a global pop culture lesson.

  • I somehow doubt different cultures will be under the influence of a single variable. You can guarantee the English will be under the influence of plenty of drink as well as football.
  • sahar khamis
    This is very interestng! I'm very proud of you Andi. This is a very good application of many of the concepts we discussed together in the Global PR class. I hope you can share this experience with the rest of the class!

  • Another PR football fanatic. Awesome. I think there is so much potential for PR and marketing professionals around an event as astronomical as this, and not just on the financial side but at community levels as well. In my previous job, my company was one of the sponsors for the Olympics and it was the perfect time and opportunity to implement a programme for a group often forgotten when it comes to sport - senior citizens. The returns from that were beyond words. Looking forward to the PR mobilisation around the Cup, but looking forward more to the actual tournament. :)
  • Love the post! The last couple of months my soccer fandom has been ratcheting up and I'm very eager for the world cup to begin!! Another great thing I'm seeing with this World Cup is the level of philanthropy and different awareness campaigns being done, and there is no better stage. The NIKE(RED) campaign immediatley comes to mind in terms of raising awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS in Africa. (link below w/ more detail). Also I've seen articles about the building of schools and actual soccer fields for South Africa's children to use.
  • We were just talking about philanthropy in class the other day ... and how some people don't realize that it too, is a specialized area of public relations. In fact, so is public diplomacy, health communications, political campaigns, etc.

    It's a shame that a lot of people tend to focus on press releases, media relations and other technical and tactical aspects of PR... all the while, events like the World Cup are going on and we're too busy with PR flacks to notice that good public relations can do, well... GOOD, and... build relationships on a global scale. Seems obvious no? :)
  • stephmajercik
    Okay I officially LOVE this post, because not only did you verbalize all of the reasons that I love soccer and CANNOT wait for the World Cup to begin, but you concluded with a soccer song, and I love a good soccer song. I also really love the points you make about global PR and how our efforts can make a difference all over the world. That is something I am really passionate about, being a German & European Studies student along with communications.

    Great post!
  • Thank you Steph! I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was fun writing it because it was the most perfect excuse to mention all the things I live and breathe for in one post :D

    I may or may not have left the FIFA World Cup home page open in a tab on my browser so that I can stare at the countdown clock ...
  • I'm ashamed for knowing this, but I lived in Spain too long. Bisbal actually never won Operación Triunfo, he was runner up to Rosa Lopez and in third was Busta.
  • Don't be embarrased! I LOVED the show. It was the original American Idol. I daresay, Spaniards and Latin Americans everywhere must have loved this show just as much as they love soccer. Even HALF as much would be saying something!
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