You see Football World Cup, I see place branding, why?

footballA brief by Elise Baudelet, junior expert in territorial marketing at the CAAC

Yesterday the Football World Cup competition officially started. During one month the world will not get its eyes out of Brazil, and, as every four years, news will refer it as a crucial international event. Actually, the country has been under the spotlights a long time (for almost a year) before the beginning of the games with many comments, analyses, news reporting… Therefore, it has become more than football: it involves the management of the national brand.

The World Cup, as the Olympic Games, has emerged as an essential factor of public policy. Hosting a large international sporting event guarantees a worldwide media exposure as well as a financial return on investment. Despite the considerable investment associated with the infrastructural development, places are undeniably competing to organize them because of the local economic activities and job opportunities that will be generated. Besides stimulating economy, the goal is to attract tourists and new inhabitants, potential businesses investments as well as involving and satisfying locals. Therefore, this aim corresponds to a city branding strategy. Media coverage helps to create place awareness and gives a chance to build a strong brand image: the city may be perceived as friendly, dynamic, with great potential. Thus, outcomes are largely beyond the football issues. For instance in 2010, the international community, led by the United Nations and NGOs, was hopping for the development of Africa through the World Cup.

The countries participating as competitors could also enhance their brand image awareness depending on what happens during the event (sport results, particular behavior…). In addition, it helps to boost internal branding by a raise of the national pride, belonging feeling and social cohesion.

Not only the popular international sporting events are strategic leverages, average broadcast competitions are also useful in terms of dissemination. Actually, hosting both national and international events this year, Cardiff has received the official title of European Capital of Sport 2014. The targets related to identity and visibility will define the choice for a concrete event. For instance, cities that have organized the Atlantic Watersports Games (ie: Viana Do Castelo, Brest, Santander…) illustrate perfectly this consistency: the maritime asset that links Atlantic cities and the cooperation through competition. Definitely, sporting events have demonstrated how territories benefit from these occasions to add tangible elements to their brand image.

All in all, to be efficient, collaboration between local institutions and sporting events managers is critical to have long term upshots. Events have to be planned with sustainability in mind, to create social and urban improvement. Local interests need to be in the center of the decisions to have citizens support.

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