This was a tournament full of twists and turns, swings and roundabouts, great games and better goals, a tournament with more than its fair share of unscripted magical fan moments that make the World Cup what it is when it achieves its full potential – arguably the best international sports showcase in the World and a commercial opportunity that is and remains above all, resilient.
There was a notable chorus of concern before the tournament. Geopolitical tensions, infrastructure and integrity concerns permeated the sports world. Russia was not in a position to deliver a world class World Cup was the message. The ripple effect was felt by all stakeholders, with several of the World Cup’s leading commercial partners in 2014 deciding not to renew their partnerships with FIFA for the tournament. By all metrics however, these concerns never came to fruition, and the World Cup delivered, both on and off the pitch.
The Winners Enclosure: France, China and Russia
It was France that reigned victorious over Croatia in an exciting 4-2 final, under a Russian storm that hung heavy over the Luhzniki stadium in Moscow for much of the match and all of the celebrations, adding a further dramatic component to the culmination of five weeks of world class football. Euromonitor predicted that Brazil would ultimately lift the trophy, overcoming France in the semi-final, but as with almost all pre-tournament predictions, this wasn’t to be.
The commercial predictions we could more confidently approximate, and China was the stand-out winner. Official partners Mengniu, Hisense, Vivo and Wanda, which trade in dairy, consumer electronics and consumer appliances respectively, have been characterized by rapid growth in sales over the recent years yet remain dependent on the Chinese domestic market ,enjoyed a high level of global exposure and positive brand association. These Chinese businesses will look to further capitalise and leverage these FIFA partnership to help catalyse entry into global markets. As a result, expect an increase in competition between partners for World Cup Qatar 2022.
The final big winner of the 2018 World Cup was Russia. Prior to the tournament Euromonitor stated that for the tournament to be a resounding success the critics would have to be silenced. This was to be done by navigating geo-political obstacles, avoiding security tensions, and building confidence with travelling fans, all of which were achieved. According to official figures, total investments into World Cup 2018 amounted to USD13billion, making it the most expensive World Cup in history. Nearly half of the funds were allocated to renovate underdeveloped transportation infrastructure in cities where matches will be played. This is where the lasting value of the World Cup will lie. The World Cup was a major opportunity to shine the global spotlight on Russia, with up to one million tourists travelling to the country during the tournament. The number of inbound arrivals in Russia is expected to record a CAGR of 4% by 2022 and the World Cup proved an invaluable springboard from which to put Russia on the map for international tourists.
There are limits to what can be pre-determined in sports. Stakeholders can’t control the on-field action, yet they can control the fan experience. There is a common goal that be summarised in one word, a word that is ubiquitous when it comes to the organisational side of professional sports, and that is – seamless. By all accounts, the 2018 Russia World Cup was as seamless a fan experience as it was exciting, a perfect storm that raised the bar for future tournaments.
The Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, like Russia, will bring its own unique set of challenges. Stakeholders in 2022 will look to emulate the successful delivery of Russia 2018, using this tournament as a blueprint from which commercial success can be decoded.
Further insights are available in the webinar, ‘The Influence of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Global Domestic Football Leagues’. To receive the complimentary recording, visit: https://bit.ly/2Jw9dyI