WORLD CUP 2002: Global Marketing - Hyundai joins the squad. Hyundai is sponsoring the World Cup for the first time. Adam Leyland finds out why

As one of the new sponsors of the FIFA World Cup, Hyundai is a surprise partner. It's rubbing shoulders with the world's biggest brands - the likes of Coca-Cola, Gillette and Adidas - but surprise is precisely what it wants you to feel. Surprise to find that it's in such hallowed company.

Surprise to learn that it's such a big player. Surprise that it makes such good cars.

Aha, you say, it's only sponsoring the World Cup because it's in the Far East. And it's a fair assumption, since other new sponsors include Korea Telecom, NTT and various Japanese consumer electronics companies.

But Hyundai's World Cup sponsorship is actually part of a long-term marketing strategy using football - it's already sponsored Euro 2000, the Gold Cup 2000 for North and Central America, and various World Cup qualifying rounds - to enhance its global aspirations as a car manufacturer.

These aspirations are not without some solid foundations. Hyundai sells cars in 150 countries, including all 32 participating countries. By comparison, Budweiser is sold in only 80. "People in the UK are more surprised than some because our market share here is 1%,

says Jonathan Spence, Hyundai's UK marketing director. With market share of 2.5% worldwide, the plan is to build the brand's credentials internationally, he adds.

To make best use of the sponsorship, it employed sports marketing agency Octagon to conduct its below-the-line global marketing. "The likes of Coke and McDonalds can leverage on a very different scale,

says Phil Carling, senior vice-president at Octagon. "You have to be more clever."

Organising an integrated global marketing programme for an event such as the World Cup is always a logistical challenge, and it is complicated still further by the fact that Hyundai works through distributors in almost every market.

Hyundai UK, for example, is part of Lex, and has a marketing team of 17 made up of brand communications, PR, research and product planning.

It does its own local advertising through Leagas Delaney, with the current campaign based on the phrase 'The strongest squad in this year's World Cup doesn't even play football.'

There is also a link to other European partners, which organise certain marketing activities on the continent. "Most of the co-ordination is done through Europe,

explains Spence, including pan-European advertising provided by Bates agency Atlas. This will be shown on pan-European TV channels such as Eurosport.

Finally, there is the Korean parent company, where the global marketing team provides "some contribution

to marketing budgets in World Cup years, according to Spence, and which co-ordinates global below-the-line activities with Octagon.

Carling admits: "It's a challenge, with a company that has so many distributors, trying to align them with common goals.

Octagon has come up with three key global initiatives to unite global efforts.

The first was to appoint Johann Cruyff as a global ambassador for the brand, representing Hyundai at official World Cup events, and also using him in some advertising materials.

Then there's an international five-a-side tournament which takes place in each of the 32 countries, and the 'goodwill ball' tour, a campaign first conceived and adopted for Euro 2000. Giant footballs, each 4.5metre in diameter, are sent on a PR road trip in each participating country, and locals are encouraged to sign them to show their support for their national team. Come the World Cup, all 32 balls will be sent to Korea and used in one of the official opening ceremonies.

Hyundai UK has shown more enthusiasm for some initiatives than others.

Carling estimates that the UK goodwill ball has been signed by 250,000 people, for example. And Spence reports a lot more "surprise

as the tour has been taken to the streets - for Euro 2000, the balls were housed in Hyundai showrooms. On the other hand, "We haven't used Johann Cruyff that much,

admits Spence. "He's not that big here."

The highlight so far, however, has to have been a local initiative which Hyundai UK pulled off. After it had "lobbied hard and early", the UK team was one of the few Hyundai distributors which managed to secure the use of the World Cup trophy -it's lent to each sponsor for promotional purposes for a limited period. It even managed to get hold of it ahead of Coca-Cola, which was the only other UK Fifa partner to secure its use within the UK.

The opportunity to use the trophy was not wasted. Joining forces with The Sun, it was paraded around London in the newspaper's double-decker bus, complete with band and girls. Sir Geoff Hurst was signed up for the day to act as UK spokesman.

The trophy was then taken around the country, visiting hospitals in Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester. "The hospital visits generated particularly positive PR coverage. FIFA was really pleased,

adds Spence.