Coke’s New World Cup Goal: Mainstream U.S. Consumers

Soccer may trail basketball and baseball in popularity in the U.S., but Coca-Cola sees that changing fast. Coca-Cola has been a major advertiser in the FIFA World Cup for decades, but this is the first time the company is targeting a more mainstream type of consumer, as opposed to Hispanics in the U.S., said Reinaldo Padua, assistant vice president of Hispanic marketing for North America. The campaign, which includes global TV, documentary and interactive components, comes as young American consumers take a more active interest in the sport—an interest that the company believes will extend to watching the games as well. Padua discussed what Coca-Cola is doing that’s new in the World Cup this year and how the company’s “Open Happiness” theme is a good fit for the sponsorship.

Brandweek: Coca-Cola has been an official sponsor of the FIFA World Cup since 1978. What is different about the marketing campaign this year?
Reinaldo Padua:
In the U.S., we’ve taken the activation of the World Cup across the entire U.S. market. Our efforts in the past were usually more concentrated in the Hispanic market. They are core fans of soccer. But with the growth in the practice and popularity of this sport, we are at that tipping point where during the weekends and in the summer you see soccer moms taking kids to practices and games. We’re looking for how to fuel that active living among their kids, and the company has decided to leverage that trend and take this to [a more general] market.

BW: But doesn’t soccer trail other sports, like basketball and football, in popularity in the U.S.?
Soccer is one of the top three most practiced sports among youths in the U.S. [Specifically] it’s the most practiced sport among kids ages 8 to12 years old. So, what you see in that trend is that there is a natural passion and connection with this sport across the entire market, not only among Hispanic consumers.

BW: Is Coca-Cola upping its investment in the World Cup this year?
We keep increasing our investment, and this is reflected in the fact that this is [targeting] the entire U.S. market. Our resources around the activation of this program in the U.S. are going to be like never before. In packaging, it’s also going to be across multiple brands, [namely] Powerade, Coke Zero and Fanta, and our presence in media will include these brands too. In addition to that, one of the events that is very important to our sponsorship of the World Cup is our Trophy Tour. That’s similar to the torch relay in the Olympics. We take that solid gold trophy around the world, across most of the countries in Africa, across a total of 86 countries in 225 days, and it builds on that excitement and anticipation for [the tournament in] June and July.

BW: The global TV spot for the World Cup, “History of Celebration,” builds on Coca-Cola’s current “Open Happiness” campaign. Why expand on the existing marketing campaign, and why is that a good fit?
There is a natural connection between our “Open Happiness” campaign and the World Cup. The World Cup theme is about celebrating soccer and the [winning of the trophy]. It’s an incredible experience that brings together all the best soccer teams in the world for one month, and it doesn’t matter about the differences in their culture, language and religion. Everyone gets together for those 30 days, and we share the same rules, the same field and we all cheer for our teams in a very competitive, but at the same time, very happy way…When you think of the globalness of the FIFA World Cup, [consider the fact that] the most important sports event on air—the last World Cup, held in Germany—had a total of 26 billion nonunique visitors. When you compare that in terms of all the [other major sports] events, like the Super Bowl, you are talking about 250 Super Bowls—one right after the other—during one month. So, when you think of the globalness of our brand and the presence of Coca-Cola in all of those countries and its awareness and connection with happiness, it just makes sense for Coca-Cola to be the brand that brings the World Cup and the celebration of that event around the world.