Coca-Cola is on the brink of changing their advertising strategy for the World Cup 2014. The classic brand, known for its traditionally wholesome and soft image, may soon be plunging into much deeper waters as it explores a more realistic approach relating to Brazil’s current political situation.
While it is isn’t picturesque to imagine anything but sports fans across the globe uniting over goals and jerseys, the truth is that life in Brazil at the moment is pretty unglamorous. The lack of health care, poor public services and extremely high poverty rates are masked by the extensive spending on advertising and commodities during the World Cup 2014. Sadly, Brazil’s somber inequality as a country is being overshadowed by an $11 billion dollar budget for the series of games.
Activists are intent on protesting Brazil’s distorted representation through rallies and marches that seemed to have even become severely violent even before the World Cup began. At one point, even massive plastic sheets were used by protesters to hide a giant Coke bottle in front of Rio’s Maracana Stadium. Brazilian police have been using tear gas and rubber bullets to fend off the rioters that are targeting stadiums in all six countries of the games. In the city of Belo Horizonte, demonstrators set fire to a dealership selling cars produced by Kia Motors (partly owned by World Cup sponsor, Hyundai) and officials say there is likely more violence to come.
Coca-Cola’s executive vice-president, Joe Tripodi told the Associated Press, “That [World Cup] spotlight can act as an opportunity to tell a story of happiness but it can also be a spotlight to tell a story of grievances and concerns that they [the public] have about the direction of the country.”
Although it leaves the question, is Coke’s goal to use Brazil’s corrupted government in ads a genuine effort or is it merely a strategic business plan to take a touchy social problem and financially profit from it?
It isn’t unlike Coca-Cola’s advertisers to stand firm on a political front when it comes to their brand. Only a few years ago did Coca-Cola’s U.K Branch sign the Public Health Responsibility Deal promoting healthy living. As part of their pledge, Coke fought off critics that bashed their sugar-filled cola by distributing soccer balls for each Coke sold during their World Cup Trophy tour. Thus, encouraging kids to get out and play, while still selling soda.
Yet, Coca-Cola does seem to be contradicting their original World Cup 2014 campaign slogan “One World, One Game” by now considering to address Brazil’s depressing situation. It is a slippery slope when projecting political views into a marketing campaign, especially one during events as large as the World Cup.
“Sponsors have got to be locking themselves in their sports marketing war rooms right now to figure out exactly how to respond,” says David Carter, a management professor who runs the Sports Business Institute at the USC Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles told Business Week. “Not only do they need to be concerned with activating their sponsorship, but they’ve got to be really concerned with a rapid response to anything that might go sideways.”
If Coca-Cola does in fact plan to push forward with the plan to support Brazil’s efforts, it will be interesting to see what progress, if any, will result for their residents, government and the Coca-Cola brand in general.
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