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They think it’s all over. It never even started.

The lessons marketers can learn from Englands World Cup bid.

One of the things Zeitgeist likes to do when not identifying first class insights is finding inspiration in the real world that can be brought into the world of marketing.

Sometimes it is as simple as this deconstruction of the Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter that demonstrates how a fantastic creative execution is made during the fusion and collaboration of individual genius contributing their own part to the mix.

However over the past week one half of Zeitgeist has been lucky enough to be given an insight of their own into the pitch process.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the excellent APG Battle of Big Thinking which pitted planners from around the industry against each other as they debated their big thoughts.

In the semi-informal atmosphere of the architecturally interesting British Library the style and charisma of the presenters was often more influential that their actual idea.

Trapped by the snow and a lack of faith in the UK rail infrastructure, Zeitgeist was able to watch the doomed English bid for the FIFA 2018 World Cup from the comfort of the sofa.

It is rare to be able to watch another team pitch and in the much more serious arena of the Messe Zurich it provided a few more lessons that we can bring into our own business.

Lesson One
The most important of which is to understand the criteria against which you will be judged. This isn’t always as simple as looking at the brief. You have to understand what your audience really want and why you are there.

England received a glowing report for infrastructure and facilities and a 100% rating by McKinsey. They were even acknowledged as being the only bidders who could ‘hold the World Cup tomorrow‘.

However a quick look at previous World Cup hosts suggests that much of that is irrelevant and what FIFA want is to enter new markets and leave a legacy.

Up to 1990 the World Cup was alternatively hosted between South and Central America and Europe. In the 90′s with the break up of the Eastern Bloc and growth of technology like the internet and mass broadcasting the world and the world of football changed dramatically.

By the time those changes began to take effect the 1994 and 1998 World Cups had already been awarded to USA and France respectively.

Then in 1996, FIFA awarded the 2002 World Cup to Japan and South Korea for what was the first Asian World Cup.

The 2006 World Cup went to Germany but was supposed to go to South Africa. The influence of Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer and other shenanigans saw to that.

In 2010 the World Cup was indeed held in South Africa breaking a new frontier.

In 2014 it will be held in Brazil, the nation that puts the ‘B’ into ‘BRIC’. They haven’t hosted it since 1950 and it will be the first time the event has been hosted in South America since Argentina invited the world to sample the delights of a military dictatorship in 1978.

So with this knowledge at hand the question arises as to whether England really thought they stood a chance of winning the 2018 bid. All the attributes that would have made them a stand out candidate as hosts before 2000 now count against them. The irony is that before then, the Taylor Report had only just forced clubs to upgrade their dilapidated facilities so they wouldn’t have been ideal candidates for earlier World Cups either.

The pitch itself was excellent.

If FIFA president Sepp Blatter was a balloon he’d have popped as he introduced the future King, current Prime Minister and icon David Beckham to plead with him and his mates for the right to host the World Cup.

Opened by the excellent Eddy Afekafe the presentation answered exactly what England would have wanted to see if they were choosing the venue.

Unfortunately FIFA’s criteria was different and that’s why the bid failed.

So what other lessons can we learn that will help us when we pitch to prospective clients?

Lesson Two
It doesn’t matter how well you present if you don’t tick their requirements.

Lesson Three
It doesn’t matter who pitches if you don’t meet their requirements.

Lesson Four
It doesn’t matter how in love you are with your own solution if it doesn’t meet their requirements.

For all the claims of corruption and a stitch up, England were fighting a losing battle from the beginning. In any case, the idea that good Olde English values of fair play would somehow infect an international cabal of sports administrators when national and personal fortunes are waiting to be made does seem naive to say the least.

With the newly branded St George’s Park finally getting the go-ahead after years of delay it looks as though we might finally be investing in training a team of World Cup winners rather than trying to get home advantage. Maybe our efforts should have been spent getting it finished sooner instead of chasing impossible dreams.

And that’s the fifth and final lesson for agencies. Next time you get the chance to pitch, stop and think about whether you actually really stand a chance.

Does this company always appoint local or global agencies? Is the pitch just an excuse to justify giving it to the incumbant? What is your role in the process? Are they just after some new ideas? Who is actually making the decision?

Be brutally honest. If you don’t think you stand a chance, work out how much you would have wasted pitching and instead invest it in developing your own staff and boosting their morale. They already believe in you and will service your existing accounts all the better for it.

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