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The World Cup Kicks Off — And So Do the Ads

The FIFA 2022 World Cup kicked off on November 20, with matches being played throughout the holiday season until the final game on December 18. Though concerns about host country Qatar’s human rights record along with its treatment of LGBTQ communities and women left some fans and marketers feeling cold, many brands committed to the global event that will be watched by millions of spectators. Here are several spots grabbing our attention.

Uniting the Global Community
As part of its ongoing “Nothing Is Impossible” campaign, Adidas recently released a spot called “Family Reunion” that celebrates the ways soccer can unite both fans and players from around the world. The 60-second ad features several top players, including Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Jude Bellingham among others, all being celebrated with unique individual moments before they come together as a soccer family. The spot is also notable for being the first of the Qatar World Cup to be directed by a woman, Nina Holmgren of SMUGGLER London. “During the next month, we’ll see new players break [into] the scene, an underdog beat the odds, unbelievable goals and widespread celebrations taking place across the globe,” said Florian Alt, VP of global brand communications at Adidas. “It’s precisely that spirit that our campaign hopes to inspire in fans around the world.” 

In similar spirit, creative agency INNOCEAN Berlin partnered with Kia to craft the car company’s global World Cup brand campaign. In keeping with Kia’s “Movement that inspires” ethos, the campaign honors all the moves—both big and small—that people make during the World Cup. An emotional hero film called “Every Four Years” takes viewers on a journey around the world, from bustling cities to remote villages, highlighting the many rituals in which people take part as they come together to watch the soccer extravaganza. “We’ve waited a long time to launch this global campaign—four years, to be exact,” said Ricardo Wolff, executive creative director. “Suddenly that old dusty flag is hung by the window and those ‘lucky’ pair of socks are worn during the match. We’re basically reminding people how inspired they feel by a sport that’s not just a sport, but a movement. And these are two things that Kia knows very well: movement and inspiration.”

Tapping into the Spirit of Celebration
To celebrate the importance of this year’s soccer event, the Official Qatari Bank of FIFA World Cup 2022, QNB Group, put out a “Dream Bigger” campaign that aims to do just that. A hero spot starts by musing on how everything starts with a simple dream before history gets made. In this case, it came via two firsts: Qatar hosting the tournament in winter and in the Middle East, both of which hadn’t previously been done. Soccer greats Neymar and Khaby Lame are among the stars of the ad, which ends by breaking into a raucous international celebration on the streets of Doha, Qatar’s capital city.

Merrymaking is likewise the name of the game for Pepsi MAX, which partnered with BBDO Argentina to craft “Nutmeg Royale,” a colorful film that also refers to one of soccer’s slyest moves. Starring legend Lionel Messi and set to Fatboy Slim’s iconic song, “Rockafeller Skank,” the spot sees several players break out into a joyful, impromptu game that’s watched by spectators around the world. “A nutmeg move is for the quick-witted, the ambitious, and fun-lovers that are thirsty for the thrill of the game,” said Gustavo Reyna, senior director of global marketing. “Creating entertaining moments for our consumers to enjoy is at the core of who we are at Pepsi MAX.”

Getting Cheeky
Scotland-based BrewDog brewery made waves two weeks before the World Cup started with a series of “anti-sponsorship” out-of-home ads created by Saatchi and Saatchi UK that were displayed in various locations around London. The OOH placements featured lines like “First Russia, then Qatar. Can’t wait for North Korea” and “Eat, sleep, bribe, football,” all as a means of protesting Qatar’s long, troubled history of human rights violations. Fans and protestors immediately took to social media, alternately praising the brand for its bravery and lambasting the beer manufacturer for what some saw as a PR stunt, but BrewDog held firm to its stance. “Football is meant to be for everyone,” said company executives. “But in Qatar, homosexuality is illegal, flogging is an accepted form of punishment, and it’s OK for 6,500 workers to die building your stadium.”

Finally, Budweiser found its own unique way to take a stand after learning that beer and alcohol would be banned from the tournament, only eight days before the games kicked off. That occurred despite the fact that Anheuser-Busch InBev has long been a major World Cup sponsor, reportedly paying $75 million for rights to this year’s games. “As partners of FIFA for over three decades, we look forward to our activations of FIFA World Cup campaigns around the world to celebrate football with our consumers,” said an AB InBev spokesperson. “Some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control.” In response, Budweiser gathered over 100 influencers from around the world to create a video called “The World Is Yours to Take,” hoping to drum up both good vibes and enthusiasm for the soccer event. “[The influencers are] gonna tell their tunnel story, in terms of what they’ve had to overcome and defied the odds and didn’t listen to the naysayers to really step up and go for it as well to help amplify our campaign message to their audience around the world,” said Todd Allen, VP of global marketing.

From messages of hope and unity to moments of festive celebration to tongue-in-cheek replies and last-minute brand pivots, the 2022 World Cup has already elicited waves of emotion among global consumers. We’ll be watching for all upcoming developments. Here’s to many hours of happy viewing!