As the World Cup draws to its finale…

So the World Cup is down to the last bash…may the better team win. If Argentine does, probably with flair and panache, will that be a precursor to shout more about the Malvinas? If Germany does, it will surely be a moment of supreme endorsement of their methods and strategy – for them. FIFA must be fairly pleased. The money rolls in, the competition has gone well, new football stars have emerged, there have been exceptional phases of play and a few boring ones, surprise results have set alarm bells off in some countries, including Brazil, and that will in turn bring much soul-searching and new impetus to regain lost primacies.

 

Among the headlines that are not so charming: “Executive was last seen sneaking out the back door of luxurious hotel as police investigate $95 million ticket scam”… seems a few people with close connections have snatched some fast bucks.

Sponsors are pleased, by all accounts. In toto they have spent about US$1.7 billion on sponsorships and some US$4 billion on advertising. Adidas must be smiling as the players in both teams contesting the finals will be shod in their products. Social media is going gangbusters. Sponsor Adidas has been pushing out exclusive content across social and global retail channels in sync with events during all the World Cup matches and is the most talked-about brand on Twitter during the World Cup, with over 1.6 million tweets. On Facebook, Adidas has added over one million fans, and a community built for Argentine star and Adidas player Lionel Messi has grown by 500,000 more.

Facebook has reported more than a billion Cup-related posts, comments and likes generated by 220 million users since the start of the tournament on June 12 (through Round 16). Although this engages just 17% of Facebook users. There were some 300 million Tweets in 2 weeks compared with about 150 Million during the London Olympics. A total of 35.6 million tweets were sent during the semi-final match that saw Germany defeat Brazil. Facebook saw more than 200 million posts, shares, comments and likes during the match, involving some 66 million people — an absolute record.

In just seven days from the start, FIFA’s Twitter followers exceeded 13.5 million and the official FIFA World Cup Instagram app increased its followers from 42,000 to 550,000.

The viewing numbers for the final will be interesting.

 

 

There’s something about national psyche and passion for sporting success that we don’t experience in Australia as is the case in many other countries. I’m not saying that’s good or bad…it just seems to be that way. Sure, we had an amazing focusing of the country at the time of the America’s Cup, Cathy Freeman captured the country during the Sydney Olympics, that horse race seems to galvanise much of the country for a few hours each year, there are certainly state and football code episodes that consume parts of our population….but we don’t seem to have that national identification with an overriding and ongoing sporting experience that others have.

 

Our nearest neighbour, New Zealand, has a deep passion for its rugby and a fervour and reverence for the All Blacks. There have been plenty of studies to try and correlate the response of the economy to successes and losses of the AB’s over the years. Certainly, the country gets depressed when the AB’s lose. That passion was matched in recent years with their successes in the America’s Cup.

 

European nations and to a degree England embrace football in a way we don’t always understand. And moreso, most of the Latin American countries.

 

Which brings me to Brazil and the disastrous performance of its selecão, their national team, against Germany in the World Cup competition. Will this be marked as “The curse of Maracanã is finally vanquished, but a new beast may have risen: the curse of Mineirão.” How might this yet play out as the tournament continues, sans Brasil? And beyond.

 

The country’s economy has slipped from its point of surprise, stunning performance and expected growth to a disappointing low. The social implications of imbalance and the intense politicising of so many economic policies, the negative sentiments over the spending for the World Cup – which was promised to be substantially achieved via the private sector – have been profound. Those issues don’t go away – notwithstanding that the actual organisation and presentation of the World Cup has been extremely good.

 

Brazilian football goes to very core of local culture, carrying so much hope for the many who just have little else to embrace in their lives. Now, with so many hopes and emotional aspirations built around the Brazilian football team dashed, will that disappointment and humiliation translate into more disturbance and indeed, a backlash against President Rousseff as she campaigns to win the forthcoming Presidential elections?

 

The pervasive emotional charge that runs through the Brazilian psyche is different to that of Germany. I was in Germany some years ago when that country won a major football competition against Italy. The streets were full and for hours there was simply the deafening chant of “Deutschland” reverberating. A little chilling in an historical context.

 

And along with that final comes the playoff for third place in the World Cup – Brazil vs The Netherlands. That will be charged with emotion.

Eric Winton

Director, New Millennium Business

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