Guest Article by Efe Sevin
Yesterday afternoon, thanks to a random visit to a pub, I realized that 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup is underway in Germany. This event, again, made me think about the place of ‘sports marketing’ in place branding projects. Can there a ‘branding’ aspect of hosting such events? I argue that economic gains or media exposure cannot be seen as main motivators. Rather, countries host/participate in these events to associate themselves with the ideals and brands of these events.
Let me start with my initial reaction to the game I saw on TV. Why would Germany, a very strong brand, host Women’s World Cup – an event as popular as your local curling league? It is known that international/global sports events (and good performances in these events) are more beneficial to less-known nations in terms of external perception, so why Germany?
The easiest answer is ‘media exposure’. Countries, specifically the hosts, get exceptional media attention during the (Summer) Olympics, and the (FIFA Men’s) World Cup but what about the (Winter) Olympics and the (FIFA Women’s) World Cup? We are talking about a football tournament where US national team is considered a good team… I don’t think these games (or the countries) will get much media exposure. There must be another reason!
The second easiest answer is ‘generating income’ through visitors. Well, it is true that a soccer game at the end of the day attracts more people than a curling game. But, the attendance is a little bit over 200,000 people… Given the fact that Germany attracts more than 100 million foreign visitors a year, I don’t think tourism is the answer. Does it make financial sense to organize such an event for .2% increase? Also, with the lack of media exposure, it is difficult to argue that the event will have additional economic benefits (i.e. increase in FDI, export etc)
My answer is a little bit different. Every international/global event has its own brand, and set of ideals associated with it. The most obvious one is ‘the Olympic Spirit‘. Nations, by participating, hosting, or bidding to host the games, show the rest of the world that they are a part of these ideals. Is it possible that Germany supports Women’s football to affiliate the nation with this brand? Football is a sport traditionally dominated by men. FIFA Women’s World Cup is only 20 years old. I claim that Germany proves its commitment to, for instance, gender equality by supporting this relatively new initiative.
I am not claiming that the brand affiliation is the sole reason for Germany. I am sure the Chamber of Commerce in Sinsheim was happy to welcome more people. However, if we define place brand in terms of image, reputation, and/or perception rather than of promotion; affiliation with the brands and ideals of the events outweighs the economic gains or media exposure.