Saudi cashes in on World Cup

Major advertisers in Saudi Arabia will continue to cash in on the country’s participation in the World Cup, long after it has ended, a sports marketing expert has predicted.

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By  Tim Addington Published  June 11, 2006

Major advertisers in Saudi Arabia will continue to cash in on the country’s participation in the World Cup, long after it has ended, a sports marketing expert has predicted. While millions of dollars have been ploughed into marketing and advertising activities in Saudi ahead of, and during, the finals in Germany, marketers in the Kingdom are now committed to maintaining their association with the sport at a grass roots level in order to align their brands with the country’s large youth population. Turki Al-Mukairin, who is chief executive officer at Saudi sports marketing company Hatrick and agent for Saudi captain Sami Al-Jaber, said that large corporations now realised the importance of associating their brands with football for longer periods than just major events such as the World Cup. “Multinationals are becoming more and more aware that if they want to tie-in with the football platform it has to be strategic and has to be a long-term commitment not a seasonal commitment,” he said. “We are seeing a long-term commitment by many to use football as part of their long-term marketing plans.” Previously organisations had been reluctant to associate their brands with football in the Kingdom because of concerns about rights issues. Al-Mukairin said: “We have noticed that most of the marketing heads are pretty receptive now to football as a communications platform. “Previously they were sceptical about getting involved with football because of rights issues with FIFA and local associations, but FIFA has made a great effort to communicate their policies in terms of things such as image rights.” Choucrallah Abou Samra, general manager at OMD in Jeddah, said that advertisers had planned campaigns to start in the Kingdom much earlier than previous tournaments, which was an indication of their plans to link their brands more closely with football for a longer period. He said: “In anticipation of the World Cup there have been some major activities which started in January this year. We have never seen that in previous World Cups. Even local companies are using it to support their advertising campaigns.” He said that Pepsi and telecoms firm Mobily, sponsors of the Saudi side, as well as National Commercial Bank, were the most active World Cup advertisers in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, Middle East venues that broadcast South African satellite channel Multichoice, which has the exclusive rights for the World Cup in Africa, face being reported to the police. Scott Butler, chief executive officer at the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance, said that while attention was being focused on the illegal use of Middle East broadcaster ART’s exclusive rights to the World Cup, Multichoice was also a victim. But Butler warned: “We will be watching. Any venue that is showing Multichoice or if we receive a report, we will file a criminal complaint.”

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