As events in South Africa unfold, the progress of the England football team will have ramifications beyond the impact on the nation’s mood.
Many business owners, executives and marketing men all have an eye trained on the tournament for commercial opportunities.
Even the aforementioned mood of the nation, some believe, can impact on business, specifically the retail trade. The palpable good feeling generated on those rare occasions England almost lives up to expectation (expectation being for us to win something, against all reason given we haven’t even reached a final since 1966), market analysts have posited, can lead people to spend more money.
Mind you, I could give you anecdotal evidence that feeling gloomy can also precipitate a spending spree, but that’s another story. But anyway, like sunshine, nothing quite boosts the British psyche than the football team doing well.
The World Cup is boom time for pubs, off-licences, bookmakers, retailers of flat-screen TVs and merchandisers
After the deepest, longest recession since the 1930s, the country’s self-belief could do with a pick-me-up. We might have the biggest deficit in the G20, but if our football team can trump all the others it might just go some way to making up for it.
But I’m not so sure. Back in the Real World, people’s self-worth, let’s face it, truly depends on how well they’re doing in work and with the opposite sex, and of course how much money they have.
If you’ve just got a new job then your mood might be punctured for a couple of hours after a defeat at the hands of Serbia, and your spending is still going to rise with the guaranteed extra income. Conversely, if you’ve just lost your job with no redundancy payoff, then a World Cup triumph isn’t going to cause you to go and buy a new sofa and TV.
And anyway, as an intangible, unquantifiable quality, the effect of happiness on our shopping habits is difficult to quantify, even futile.
What you can say with certainty, though, is that the World Cup is boom time for pubs, off-licences, bookmakers, retailers of flat-screen TVs and merchandisers – speaking of which, you could say it’s a good time for BP, too, because those silly little England flags people attach to their cars apparently makes cars less aerodynamic because of added ‘drag’, meaning cars use more petrol. Oh hang on, maybe not such a good time for BP…
For pubs it’s demonstrably a happy time. If the pub trade were a comedy character, it would surely be the perpetually unfortunate Unlucky Alf from The Fast Show, the old man met by calamity after calamity, with every electrocution or kick to the nether regions eliciting a dejected “Bugger”. A myriad of problems, including the smoking ban, above inflation tax rises, cheap supermarket alcohol and of course recession, have blighted the sector and 28 pubs now close every week.
Finally, however, not only is there a fairly decent summer –this week excepted – ensuring that beer gardens are full, the World Cup has arrived to corral everyone into the pub. Even if England do customarily crash out early, there’ll still be plenty of other nationalities wanting to watch their team, especially in London. The English, meanwhile, lose a certain amount of interest once the bearers of the Three Lions exit, but nevertheless can use the competition as an excuse to go down the boozer midweek.
The 2010 edition of the football World Cup is expected to be the biggest ever betting event, with £1bn expected to wagered. And bookmakers can rely, as always, on deluded England fans placing bets on their own perennially underachieving team (although actually, when you think about it, England have finished in the quarter finals in each of the last three tournaments, and you could credibly say that is overachieving for a team with Emile Heskey up front and Shaun Wright Phillips in the squad).
Major brands are shameless in their attempts to tap into our patriotic fervour. Mars, an American company, changed the Mars Bar wrapper to incorporate the red and white cross of St George, for example.
Danish brewers Carlsberg, meanwhile, hired every Englishman or woman who’d ever won anything, including Ian Botham, Kelly Holmes, Ellen MacArthur, Nigel Benn and Phil "the Power" Taylor, for an jingoistic and self-important TV advert. Lining up the tunnel leading to the pitch, the nation's favourite sons and daughters urge the England team on as they walk towards the pitch while a narrator intones earnestly about how regular Joes would give anything to wear the shirt and so on and so forth. Even Carl Fogarty is there showing off on his bike. Hmmm.
Nike, featuring Wayne Rooney living in a caravan and sporting a beard, and Adidas, with a Star Wars pastiche, released their traditional cinematic spectactulars, with Movie-standard production values and a phalanx of the world's best players.
Mark Artus, CEO of brand agency 1HQ believes, however, that you don’t need a budget of millions to exploit the World Cup as a marketing opportunity. “It is cost-effective for the bigger brand,” he says. “It’s one of the major global events that reaches so many people, which is massively effective because they can sit on the global stage and it gives them the opportunity to make sure they link it to all the local markets around the world.”
Asked how small businesses can make the most of the tournament as a marketing opportunity, he explains: “I think smaller business have got to be innovative with what they do locally. I think they can be smart with their products and make sure they’re relating things in an original way to the World Cup itself.
“They can’t expect to get their logos on TV and get all the benefits of promoting themselves through the World Cup from a South Africa perspective, but I think they can really look at how they can engage with people on a local level.”