How to create a World Cup campaign with bite

Fitch creative director Alasdair Lennox looks at how a rogue Luis Suárez bite sent the Adidas World Cup campaign viral.

The 2014 Brazil World Cup was one of the most unpredictable on record. World champions Spain didn’t make it through group stage, Germany won 7-1 against hosts Brazil and England scored just goals.

Sponsorship activity is based on strategy and creativity, but there will always be things that no brand can predict.

Who would have imagined that Uruguay striker Luis Suárez, who featured prominently in Adidas and Fitch’s World Cup campaign, would have taken a bite out of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini?

The creative serendipity here is that the Adidas campaign shows a toothy Suárez roaring at the camera with Adidas Battle Pack patterns projected on his face. This is the image that then went viral.

Luis Suárez featured in the Adidas World Cup campaign
Luis Suárez featured in the Adidas World Cup campaign

However strategic these global sporting brands can be, it is the people that are ultimately in control. They are the ones that chose to adopt the Suarez photograph and customise it millions of times by posing in front of it on billboards, bus stops or shops and putting their hands, arms and necks in his teeth in mock anguish.

The key question now is was this viral image good or bad for Adidas?

The public is smart, and they hopefully understand that Adidas would never endorse Suárez’s behaviour; a fact that was reinforced when they subsequently removed him from the campaign. We need to give people credit that they understand the difference between the actions of the brand and the actions of an individual.

And the incident played a part in making Adidas the most-talked-about brand at the World Cup, beating Nike to gain the most traction across all social media channels.

The #allin or nothing campaign drove an increase of nearly 5 million followers across all platforms over the course of the tournament.

You can never force a viral sensation. People choose whether or not to engage, meaning that in the end it’s people, not the brand that is ultimately in control.

What the brand can do is create a platform for people to have a dialogue and an experience.

Alasdair Lennox is creative director EMEA at Fitch.

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