As the world’s most watched sporting event draws near, companies are thinking about new ways to take advantage of this opportunity.

Companies that are advertising for the World Cup are hoping music will strike a chord with fans globally.

Because the FIFA World Cup, the international soccer tournament that begins on Thursday, is the most popular sports event on the planet, advertisers want to take advantage of the large viewing audience. But the World Cup poses problems for companies that are used to making a splash at big sporting events like the Super Bowl with a pricey 30-second spot.

First off, soccer doesn’t have very many commercial breaks, with two 45-minutes halves played mostly straight through. Additionally, soccer is a global event, so it’s hard to make TV ads that translate across cultures. As a result, brands–both official sponsors and those that just want to capitalize on the event–increasingly are using music to get the world’s attention:

Danone’s Activia yogurt teamed up with Shakira to update her wildly popular 2010 World Cup Song “Waka Waka,” about Africa, with a Brazil-centric video for “La La La.” Coca-Cola made a song in English, “The World is Ours,” and then created 32 local versions, each sung by a local artist in the native language. And Beats by Dre launched a splashy new 5-minute video “The Game Before the Game” that shows soccer stars like Neymar Jr. and many others preparing for game time by listening to “Jungle” by Jamie N Commons & The X Ambassadors.

The move is an effort by companies to try to capture the attention of one of the largest global audiences for any event. In the last World Cup four years ago, 3.2 billion people tuned in, including 909.6 million for the final match, according to FIFA. That’s compared with the 111.5 million people who tuned into the Super Bowl this year.

“Sports is a great unifier and very few sports are as global as the World Cup,” said Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates. “Music is the other big platform that transcends cultures and languages, so it’s an emotional way to connect with as broad an audience as the World Cup audience is.”

The link between music and the World Cup is nothing new. The tournament has had a theme song since 1962 when “El Rock del Mundial” by Los Ramblers kicked off the 1962 World Cup in Chile. But this year, brand song tie-ins are more popular than this year’s official effort.

FIFA’s “We Are One (Ole Ola),” has been criticized by Brazilians and other soccer fans as being tone deaf to Brazil culture. Critics complain that it is sung by Cuban-American rapper Pitbull and Bronx-born Puerto Rican singer Jennifer Lopez instead of a Brazilian singer (although it does feature Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte); and it is sung mainly in English and Spanish rather than Portuguese.

So marketers have stepped in, and so far, are scoring big. Shakira’s “La La La” video, sponsored by Activia in partnership with the World Food Programme, has garnered 95 million YouTube views since it went up 3 weeks ago. By comparison, the official FIFA song has about 72 million views after five weeks. 

“When we heard ‘La La La’, we immediately knew consumers would be swayed by the rhythm and energy of this song”, said Santiago Mier Albert, general manager of Activia and vice president of marketing of Danone’s fresh dairy products division worldwide.

Coca Cola’s song has hit the top 10 charts in 40 countries worldwide. That is a big step up from their last effort in 2010, “Wavin’ Flag” which was done in 24 versions and charted in 17 countries. 

“The World Cup is universal. Music is universal too,” said Joe Belliotti, director of global entertainment marketing at Coca-Cola. “And if you can find that simple melody and simple lyrical idea that can translate and connect with people around the world, that’s the formula we strive for.”

Beats, which is not an official sponsor of the event and refers to its ad as a global campaign featuring the world-known soccer players, has gotten nearly 8 million views after just four days on YouTube. The five-minute ad cinematically shows rituals athletes use to get ready for “The Game Before The Game.” Brazilian soccer star Neymar Jr. takes a motivational call from his father, Serena Williams gets a patriotic manicure, and they all block out distraction with their Beats headphones to the tune of the foot-stomping “Jungle”. 

It’s a chance for Beats, which was recently bought by Apple for $3 billion, to step out onto the global stage for the first time, said Barbara Lippert, longtime ad critic and a columnist for

“Beats is a company about music, they really know how to make music videos, it’s a smart strategy and beautifully put together”, she said.

By Mae Anderson


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