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South Africa, the World Cup and Corporate Involvement

Corporate involvement in large scale events such as the FIFA World Cup can be seen on many levels, from big brand sponsorships activated by the likes of Castrol, Mcdonalds and Budweiser to actual official FIFA partnerships enjoyed by the likes of Coka-Cola, Visa and Sony.

Given the exorbitant sums involved in headlining prestigious events such as the World Cup, we must presume the usual ROI sums have been looked at and understood before corporates commit to such spend. But what is the pay off between FIFA income, corporate benefit and host country/consumer involvement? An estimated global television audience of 40 billion is certainly attractive to corporate sponsors, but what exactly are today’s consumers attracted to and why does it matter?

We live in an increasingly cynically world, perhaps exacerbated by the current economic climate, and individuals are now more aware of where they spend their money, and are demanding that businesses and brands act responsibly on their behalf. This fact cannot be ignored and is something that companies are increasingly actively repsonding to.

Let’s not kid ourselves, every corporate who is involved with the World Cup is doing it to increase brand awareness and drive sales and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, it is the more consumer savvy organisations that are engaging in practices that move away from simply advertising, towards creating a lasting legacy.

Awarding the World Cup to South Africa has created a platform for corporates to make a difference. Whilst the global TV audience is a temporary measure, many of the viewers will be more receptive to the brands that seek to engage with the host nation and its people on a longer term basis and long after the camera’s stop rolling.

Sport is increasingly being recognised as a vehicle that can unite people, break down barriers and offer hope to the most underprivileged countries. This is particularly relevant in Africa where the appetite for sport is huge, but the facilities and equipment are too often lacking or simply unavailable.

There are many charities operating in South Africa who all use sport as the building block for social change. Issues such as HIV awareness, Aids education, teaching respect and basic life skills such as self esteem are all tackled by using sport, and particularly football, as a way of engaging with children. I know from my own experiences in Africa the profound impact football can have on communities and the way in which children can relate to the simple use of a football as a tool for engagement.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is too often seen as a gimmick, mere window dressing by companies who use it as a token gesture to fulfil moral and legal obligations. The more forward thinking companies embed it in fundamental business practices and strategies. Big global corporates are increasingly recognising that sport provides the perfect backdrop to CSR activities and what better event to use to shout about your initiatives than the 2010 World Cup?

CSR doesn’t have to be the exclusive domain for global Superbrands and organisations with thousands of employees. Companies of all sizes have an opportunity to make a difference and if they choose to do so, why shouldn’t they shout about it. Indeed, why shouldn’t they use it to increase consumer understanding, awareness and loyalty?

As the world is getting smaller and consumers are thinking bigger, companies have an obligation to set the tone for responsible thinking. Companies of all sizes now have the opportunity to create a lasting legacy from the World Cup being staged in South Africa. It is up to us all to not let this opportunity pass by.

Simon Brown is a founding partner of kick4change, an award winning social enterprise that has just launched ‘PledgeMySeat’, a global campaign aimed at sending over 94,700 pairs of new football boots to underprivileged African children in 2010.

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