Fortunately for advertisers, the star of this year’s World Cup is
very photogenic, which may explain why there has been an unseemly scrum
over exploiting the city of Paris’s charms for marketing purposes.
Leading the way in the battle have been the sporting footwear giants,
Nike and Adidas, which have been daggers drawn over the rights to lay
their stalls out under the Eiffel Tower. The victor was Adidas, which
was granted permission to build its own ’Football Village’ in the
Trocadero and the Emile Antoine Stadium, leaving Nike to trudge 20
minutes across town to set up its village in La Defence, the French
capital’s own Canary Wharf.
Other scrambles for the best sites have been less public but just as
determined, with companies particularly eager to secure the ends of
buildings on La Peripherique, for example, as the canvas on which to
paint huge ads. Snickers has already paid homage to the French
international star, Ibrahim Ba, on a wall overlooking Paris’s version of
the North Circular, and others are expected to follow nearer the time.
For those unable to find places on buildings or under landmarks, frantic
negotiations to secure boats and airships have been a popular
It is not often that circumstances force marketing men to turn a city
into a medium, but such has been the case with Paris and the World
The prize is quite simply one of the largest audiences of the decade,
with billions expected to watch the tournament on TV and between 300,000
and 400,000 foreigners predicted to make their way there in person.
Quite apart from the column inches generated by creative marketing
ideas, passing trade also makes such ventures worthwhile. Adidas expects
up to 50,000 people a day to stroll into its shrine to the sport.
However, the main reason for such frenzied inventiveness is
All advertising inside French stadia and around pitches has been
allocated to the event’s 12 official sponsors - Adidas, Budweiser,
Coca-Cola, Canon, Fuji, Gillette, JVC, MasterCard, McDonald’s, Opel,
Philips and Snickers.
In addition, most of the poster packages in Paris and the larger
participating cities such as Lyon were bought by the big poster
contractors and advertisers months ago. In short, unless a company is
happy buying television sponsorship or ad spots from local broadcasters,
promotional opportunities are few.
Nor is the hunt for lateral opportunities confined to non-sponsors. In
winning its rights to establish the Eiffel Tower Football Village,
Adidas was effectively saying that even an official sponsor does not get
all the coverage it wants. A spokesperson for Adidas says that the
company is planning the event in addition to its appearance at the
official sponsors’ village because: ’We’re not so keen to appear in a
place where all 12 sponsors are appearing at once.’ In other words,
there is coverage to be gained from being an official sponsor and kudos
from being seen to have an independent spirit.
The exact extent of ambient and lateral marketing at the World Cup is
not yet known because companies are desperate to keep their powder dry
in the face of so much competition. As Martin Cannon, a spokesperson for
the Institute of Sports Sponsorship, points out: ’The surprise factor is
very important.’ Few marketing directors will talk about their plans,
although several secretly admit that getting clearance from the French
authorities has been a nightmare. ’If we’d known how difficult it was
going to be, we’d never have started talks,’ one says.
In part, the problems stem from the fact that the local Paris authority
shares control of some of the most sought-after sites with the
Government, which takes responsibility for historic monuments. The dual
control system means that companies wishing to use these areas or
buildings have to negotiate with two sets of people and two tangles of
An additional complication is legitimate French fears over security and
safety, heightened by the bombing of the Bastille in 1995. As a result,
persuading Paris fire officials that your event will be safe has proved
a major headache, while companies wanting to launch airships have to
contend with problems posed by the proximity of various venues to
Charles de Gaulle airport. Even getting a final go-ahead may not ensure
that a client’s plans ever materialise - just ask the famous fashion
designer who had to cancel his show 90 minutes before curtain-up because
of fears about fire safety.
For those advertisers that do make it work, however, integrating the
Paris skyline and its architecture into a marketing campaign could reap
dividends. Not only does it cleverly associate the name with a great
event, but it shows the kind of lateral thinking that might just break
through the myriad promotional clutter destined to festoon the event.