The 2010 FIFA World Cup and global public relations

This was a guest post on “The Buzz by Mike Schaffer” this week. Mike writes about public relations, social media, pop culture and sports. Mike is AMAZING. Stop by his blog and follow him on Twitter. Tell him I sent you!

Two years ago, my best friend came to visit my home country of Ecuador for the summer. One night, we went to a bar because an Ecuadorian soccer team was playing the semifinals of the 2008 Copa Libertadores. The final score was 0-0, which helped Liga de Quito, the Ecuadorian team, advance to the finals where they destroyed their Brazilian opponents and won the cup. Needless to say, this was the most anticlimactic day of my best friend’s life. And to this day she can’t understand how it can be possible for people to get as rowdy as we did that day when, for 90 minutes, not a single point was scored. Basketball has spoiled her.In 59 days and less than 10 hours — give or take — the moment I’ve been anxiously waiting for four years will finally be here. And my friend couldn’t care less.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is the greatest sport tournament in the world to me. And after a semester in my “Global Public Relations” course in graduate school I finally have an argument to support this statement that is not, “because soccer is the best sport in the world… and shut up.”For those of us in public relations and social media, the world matters. Others matter. The beautiful thing about culture and diversity is that they make the world we live in a lot less boring and predictable; however, that is also the greatest challenge we face.The FIFA World Cup gives us the rare opportunity to learn more about other cultures by either observing or, in my case, participating in UBER fandom. I’m talking body-painting, screaming, perspiring, crying, drinking, cursing… fandom. You might be thinking, “umm, it’s called the Olympics! Hellooo!” But to that I say, nay. The thing about soccer is that people live it and breathe it. Back home, in Ecuador, businesses shut down for it. Additionally, the researcher in me thinks that the World Cup is our chance to see all attributes of all the different cultures under the influence of a single variable — soccer.Public relations and social media professionals should pay special attention to what will go down in about two months. In fact, start paying attention now to how FIFA is communicating about this event and turning it into not just a soccer tournament, but a global public relations phenomenon and case study:

Por ejemplo:

(a blog post AND a Spanish lesson?? You’re welcome)

  • FIFA has a hospitality program set in place, ready to welcome everyone who comes to South Africa for the World Cup. This the the first time an African nation is hosting the World Cup and FIFA is making the most of this opportunity by showcasing a culture and embracing everyone who will come into contact with it for the very first time.
  • Over the past few years, the most amazing stadiums have been built for the soccer matches. South Africa’s infrastructure has benefited from this event. Jobs were created. Tourism will bloom. And that, folks, is how a soccer tournament becomes a public diplomacy mission.
  • Although the World Cup is a competition, if everyone has fun it doesn’t matter who wins in the end. Ok… I’m not even buying that one. Still, it’s interesting to see how FIFA and the fans deal with rivalries while still promoting togetherness.
  • Coke and Hyundai, two major sponsors, have already launched worldwide initiatives with crowdsourcing and digital/social media components. The values of cultural diversity and togetherness are both present in these campaigns. Global public relations FTW.

I leave you with the official song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Now, if this doesn’t inspire you to take your public relations practices to the next level and think outside of your own culture’s box, I don’t know what will.PS: The guy singing in Spanish is David Bisbal, a winner of Spain’s “Operación Triunfo” (a.k.a. American Idol). Boom. Right when you thought I would end without a global pop culture lesson.

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