World Cup: Mars vs. Kit Kat

The World Cup in South Africa has enriched our understanding of African culture from the vuvuzela’s through to the beautiful scenery and vibrant spirit of the South African people.

Marketing, and in particular promotion is a billion pound industry at the World Cup, so it’s not surprising Mars are unhappy Kit-Kat is trying to ruin the party with their ‘cross your fingers’ campaign.

Nestle, who owns Kit Kat, released a football themed marketing campaign including heavy TV advertising where the creative mentioned “supporting our boys”. Even though the advert was filmed at a club match and not a national team, it clearly incensed Mars who had their own “Believe” marketing campaign. Nestle did not reference the World Cup but instead used previous England football Sol Campbell within the advert.

What is sponsorship?

Sponsorship allows a company rights to be associated directly with a competition, brand, person, activity or event by paying a fee or supplying a product or service. Large brands usually try to strengthen their brand awareness by sponsorship the world’s largest events to help reach the masses.

“Jump on the band wagon”

South African budget airline Kulula attempted to cash in on the event with their advertising campaign,”Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What”.

The tongue-in-cheeky advertising was said to breach trademark regulations during the World Cup for imagery and strapline.

A statement from Fifa, football’s governing body said “For the record, Fifa did not tell Kulula that they could not use soccer balls, or the word ‘South Africa’, or the Cape Town stadium, or the national flag or vuvuzelas”.

However, using a combination of these images would constitute a breach.

Opportunism or theft?

It seems everybody is being opportunistic and attempting to cash in on the World Cup. As a marketer, you can understand the logic in making the most of your external environment (PESTLE factors), however is there a difference between the ambush marketing campaign produced by Kulula compared to Kit Kat’s?

Let’s put this into perspective. What damage can Kit-Kat’s campaign cause? Well, consider how many companies can claim to have no competitors. Very few. Do you think Mars will sponsor the event next year? Unlikely. This negatively affects sponsorship in general and the next company to sponsor a large competition need to consider what competitors would be prepared to do in response.

Sponsorship helps organisers provide the spectacular events loved and adored by millions worldwide, such as the World Cup, Olympics and Commonwealth games. If money cannot be found to fund these competitions, predominantly from advertising and sponsorship these events die. In the short term it’s a clever spoiler marketing campaign from Nestle (Kit Kat), but marketers need to question where the line is to be drawn.

Mars and Kit-Kat may have gained extra publicity because of this incident, but does it actually improve either brand, or does a legal battle surrounding products which are meant to be enjoyable damage both brands?

Kit-Kat’s guerrilla marketing campaign may go unpunished through the courts, but their marketing ethics need reviewed before sponsorship along with their brand is tainted beyond repair.


    1. Avatar for Northstar Mobile App Development : January 3, 2013 at 10:24 am

      Very nice and excellent information. This article definitely explains essential concepts to its readers. Thanks for continuing to write such wonderful articles, It is very helpful.

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