Marketing Lessons from South Africa’s World Cup Playbook

Spain may have captured the 2010 World Cup in a rousing victory over the Netherlands, but the worldwide standstill that ushered in the global phenomenon is only just starting to ebb. 

Whether you are a soccer fan or not, it was hard to miss the world class attention the month-long event unleashed – as well as the marketing lessons that brought the games to South Africa this year.

This was the first World Cup ever to be held on African soil. Complaints about the noise from vuvuzelas aside, fans gave South Africans solid reviews on hosting the event. 

What you may not know is that long before South Africa won the bidding to host the games, it created a marketing council of thought-leaders focused on creating a cohesive and long term vision for the brand of South Africa. You may not think of countries as brands, but the tourism and investment agencies of government certainly do. 

The reason this matters for you? We can learn a lot from how South Africans wooed, won and hosted the FIFA World Cup — lessons that can help inspire your marketing and people.

To help their citizens get ready for the World Cup, the marketing council created a four-step plan that every South African citizen could be a part of. Within the following four simple elements are some key lessons that you can apply to your small business:

1. Football Fridays (Lesson: Create a shared ritual to foster a sense of team) – Every Friday leading up to the start of the event, South Africans would come together to watch and celebrate football to build excitement. What could you do in your small business to offer this type of consistent moment where all your employees could share some type of ritual? Perhaps monthly bowling, or summer Fridays where everyone leaves at noon. Whatever you can do to create a ritual that everyone can be part of, you can start to foster a sense of team and belonging among your group.

2. Fly The Flag For Football (Lesson: Let people publicly declare themselves part of something) – The South African flag is a symbol of the country and the more places it is flying, the more patriotic everyone would feel. So the marketing council focused on asking people to share it. The flag is a symbol of something bigger than any one individual, but it offers a shared identity. How could your customers share an identity with your business? Car dealerships put frame plates around license tags. Home security companies put a stake on your front porch that says, “this home protected by [security company name]” These are daily examples of how businesses achieve this on a smaller scale.

3. The Diski Dance (Lesson: Use a shared exclusive experience to deepen relationships)
– This is a unique South African dance around football moves, which the marketing council created around videos on YouTube and asked citizens to watch them and learn the dance. The thinking was that by having this shared language through dance they could give the South Africans a common “insider knowledge” to bond over. The Diski dance is like the secret handshake. Is there anything your customers know that is exclusively for them? Private sales or VIP offers are one promotional example, but this could be so much deeper. Do you offer them something that has inherent value and invite them to be part of it? The more experiences like this you can offer, the more involved your best customers and employees can be with your business.

4. Our National Anthem (Lesson: Encourage people to declare their loyalty to make it real) – The national anthem for South Africa is a symbol of loyalty to the nation as it is for other countries around the world. Having citizens learn it and sing it with pride is important for South Africa to build a strong cultural identity of people connected to the country. Chances are you don’t have an anthem for your employees or your customers, but there are ways to use this idea in your small business as well.  Starbucks managed to do it on a smaller scale by introducing its lingo into the way that you talk about your coffee. Now you’ll order a “grande” instead of a medium. 

Airlines and hotels are also good at fostering this through extended products, so you will get the credit card for double miles or put the special tag on your luggage. Each approach declares loyalty to the brands in not-so-subtle ways.

These principles helped South Africa capture a place in history and on the world stage as Spain took the coveted championship home. Hopefully, some of the principles that worked for the host country of World Cup 2010 can work for you.

By Rohit Bhargava

Source: Open Forum

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