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Goal! Winning the World Cup Matters

Goal! Winning the World Cup Matters Goal! Winning the World Cup Matters
07/16/14
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by Michael Spetner
Every four years, the world gears up for the frenzy that is the World Cup. Fans unite, draped in flags and full of newfound patriotism, to watch their countries compete on one of the largest international stages. So, beyond the athletic glory, does it really matter who wins the World Cup? Are there greater things at play than just a soccer game, such as international prestige or even economic repercussions? The answer is a resounding yes. This is more than just a soccer tournament to many countries, and the players involved know that a victory is a chance to elevate their country in our collective consciousness.

It is well documented that a team’s performance at the world cup can impact the emotional well-being of its country. Take the 1950 tournament for example. Brazil, the host country then too and landslide favorite, lost in the final match on a goal that had been let in from a blunder by the Brazilian goalkeeper. Brazil has since gone on to win five World Cups, and still this loss is more a part of the country’s folklore than any of the wins. To quote the Brazilian playwright, Nelson Rodrigues, "Everywhere has its irremediable national catastrophe, something like a Hiroshima. Our catastrophe, our Hiroshima, was the defeat to Uruguay in 1950." The quote, from an ESPN documentary about the 1950 World Cup, is undoubtedly an exaggeration, but nonetheless the impact persists.

On the other end of the spectrum, winning has its upsides as well. Aside from the prize money that comes with winning the tournament– Germany was awarded $35 million for winning the Cup this year, and Argentina received $25 million for placing second – countries have been notably “happier,” to euphemize the byproduct of their teams’ success. According to an article in The Telegraph, In 2003, England saw a rise in its national birthrate – the first time in a decade – nine months after England’s team reached the quarter finals in the World Cup. The Guardian noted the same phenomenon in Germany in 2007, nine months after the ’06 World Cup (which they hosted).

But how does World Cup performance affect how a country is perceived internationally? Can winning a soccer tournament actually change how the rest of the world perceives your country’s brand? Amazingly, it can. Using historical BAV Data, we’re able to show that a World Cup win can actually help build a country’s Brand Equity. In each of the past four World Cups, the victorious country’s brand equity has jumped significantly in the eyes of adult Americans. In other words, if a country wins the World Cup, it is positioned to become more well-known and better liked in the eyes of other countries.

The PowerGrid below shows growth that each winning country experienced the year that it won the World Cup.

Spetner 1

Along with seeing increases in Brand Strength and Stature immediately after winning the World Cup, these same countries were all perceived to be "Leaders," one of the 48 BAV brand attributes, more so than they had been the previous year. When Spain won in 2010, the country’s perceived leadership more than tripled—5% of the American general population saw Spain as a leader in 2009, which shot up to 16% in 2010. This trend was similar for Italy in 2006 (10% in ’05 and 23% in ’06), Brazil in 2002 (3% in ’01 and 7% in ’02), and France in the late 1990’s (24% in ’97 and 32% in 99). The winning countries saw significant growth in other BAV brand attributes as well. Over the last four World Cups, the winning teams were found to be on average 23% more Distinctive, 17% more Healthy, 8% more Stylish, and 6% more Fun than they had been the preceding year.

Spetner 2

It’s amazing to think that a game as simple as soccer can have such a significant global impact. The athletes represent their countries far beyond just donning their national team uniforms. Their performance in the soccer arena can actually bolster their nation’s global presence and leadership in the international arena.

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