The World: Insider's View - Germany

The World Cup is being over exploited by its official and unofficial sponsors and is losing its meaning as a result, Marcus Starke says.

A mega-event such as the 2006 Fifa World Cup puts a huge strain on the problem-oriented German way of thinking, both for consumers and, unfortunately, marketers.

Communicative chaos has arisen in Germany between Fifa and its industry sponsors, the press and the consumer watchdog, Stiftung Warentest.

The number-one marketing topic is unequivocally the World Cup. It will remain so until the final whistle on Sunday 9 July, and the inevitable consequence of the tournament is that the country is having to endure a hyper-inflation of advertising messages from official sponsors and their unofficial copycats.

Germany is, at present, the El Dorado for disciples of the myth of integrated communications. The imminent arrival of the football has heightened this and has also attracted a wide range of data-focused theoreticians.

The cup's marketing status has been further elevated by a new analytical tool from Nielsen, which promises to turn all brands that attempt to leverage their association with the hype (be it thematically, conceptually or, it appears, in any other way) into measurable entities.

Values of advertising effectiveness and intensity are measured, all in the cause of alleviating the queasy feeling of the marketers by way of a few columns of figures.

Can reaction levels be measured as well? The more companies that jump on the World Cup bandwagon, the more irritated consumers are likely to become, especially with the sheer number of advertising messages in the traditional media channels. The risk is that this may have a negative effect on the brand image of some companies.

This is especially true of companies that have no real link with the soccer world at all. If they contrive to create a spurious connection, the credibility of their brands may well be damaged.

The "inflation" charge predominantly applies to traditional media. The wastage owing to the scattergun nature of these channels, combined with the bandwagon approach is critical - how can you stand out when everyone else is doing the same thing? In contrast, using the World Cup in dialogue or relationship marketing can work well, because consumers are addressed on an individual basis. Dialogue-oriented creativity allows for a more original and unobtrusive way of dealing with the topic.

This means that those in charge of marketing need to check well ahead of time and ask themselves carefully whether they really want to use such national mega-events. And, if the answer is yes, they need to consider even more carefully in which communication channel (using which instrument) this is most effective. Because the £1 billion Fifa is earning from the marketing of the TV rights alone (up 60 per cent on 2002) should be turned into hard measurement.

- Marcus Starke is the chief executive of Wunderman Europe, the Middle East and Africa.