Lost in Localization: Marketing Lessons from the 2014 World Cup

Editor’s Note: TechWhirl welcomes Fabiano Cid to the ranks of the Special Writers Unit with this debut column. Fabiano brings a huge amount of Latin American localization expertise to the pages of TechWhirl, to help content pros find their way in this complex arena.

lostinl10nCongratulations to World Cup Champion Germany! Like marketers and business communicators wishing to reach localized markets in Latin America, Germany faced many challenges. But through hard work, a sound strategy and a great supporting team, the German squad won the day.

While Brazilian fans (like myself) are still licking their wounds over the defeat and feeling somewhat compensated for being beaten by the champion, I wanted to share some of the best advertising pieces I found during the tournament campaign. This collection of videos that really scored a localized goal illustrate important lessons that marketers and business communicators can take from the 2014 World Cup.

Tying marketing and other content efforts to the global spectacle that is the World Cup will only take you to the group matches. Companies trying to reach the semifinals with a successful strategy must start with a deep knowledge of the local market and sensitivity to cultural icons. They combine it with content campaigns that epitomize universal truths, keying in on popular local trends. With careful planning and execution, lots of practice, a great deal of creativity and the right dose of emotion, they emerge victorious.

So here are four key lessons you can learn from the localized marketing champions of the 2014 World Cup.

Lesson 1: Mind your Clichés.


KIA: Football vs. Futbol

Despite the risk of being criticized by Brazilians for dealing with a sensitive topic, Kia took advantage of the curvaceous image of Adriana Lima to sell cars through sports. From the subdued yellow and green colors in the back of her dress to the idea of empowering women while still making them sexy, the ad resonated with local and international audiences. The message is clearly targeted at a US audience, but it is the Brazilian supermodel, and therefore the host of the World Cup, who is teaching her guests. In my field, you play by my rules and speak my language. Here is the first marketing lesson to learn: Feel free to use clichés in depicting your host, but be respectful about it. The reward? Three million views both inside and outside your target territory.

Lesson 2: Know your Audience. And Its Limits.

Puma: The Ghost of 1950 Is Already In Brazil

Racism is a hot topic in futbol now and a Brazilian team created a popular campaign to fight it. That same advertising agency gave Puma the idea for yet another brilliant campaign: The Blue Ghost of 1950. This is one of the best TV commercials of the season that went viral on social media despite the risk of being demonized by every Brazilian of all ages. It brings back the threat of the Celestial Blue Squad ruining the Brazilian party, like it did when Brazil hosted the World Cup previously. Needing only a tie to win the title and playing before a crowd of 200,000 in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium, Brazil gave up a goal to Uruguay with 11 minutes remaining. One distraught fan committed suicide and three others suffered fatal heart attacks (my grandfather was there and he almost had one too…) The video is a lesson of how important it is to know your audience and understand its limits, especially when making jokes with a national tragedy like “the Maracanazo.” Latin Americans may be crazy for football, but they certainly know how to laugh about it.

Lesson 3: Be Creative. Seize An Opportunity.


TyC Sports: The Blessed Game

Speaking of old Brazilian enemies and hunting ghosts, another representative of the best 2014 World Cup campaigns comes from neighboring Argentina. In the “Blessed Game” video, leading TV sports channel TyC Sports leverages the fact that Pope Francis is Argentinean to maximize the idea that futbol is religion. Leveraging a recent Papal visit to Rio de Janeiro, they mixed audio and video in a most splendid and creative way and got almost got 3 million views from spectators and fans. Argentina may have lost at the very end of the final match, but what better way to compensate your marketing efforts than having the blessing of the Pope himself? In a follow up video, he told TV executives that he enjoyed the campaign and asked them to keep the good sense of humor. Amen!

Lesson 4: Combine Universal Truths with Local Storytelling


Coca-Cola: One World, One Game – Brazil, Everyone’s Invited

What about successful campaigns created in the host country? With a whole independent division inside Coca-Cola Brasil to take care of the World Cup, it is no wonder that the most successful global brand would strike a goal (or two) in the match. The following video may have not reaped the same numbers of views as some others presented above, but while it has been said that one can never be 100% objective when it comes to futbol, politics and national pride, I would add marketing to that list and just make this the champion of all. Why? It is global without losing the local flavor; it transcends and yet feels intimate. Above all it speaks a universal language, proof of which is the number of available languages for the video captions: fourteen and counting.


A shooting star can take you far, but a constellation will take you further: Portugal had Cristiano Ronaldo, Brazil had Neymar, Argentina had Messi, but Germany had a team. Just like the German players had support from skilled coaches and technical advisors, marketers who want to get on with localizing with flare should also look for support. Localization and translation services can provide the foundational skills and targeted coaching your team needs. But that is just part of the game tactics. Be ready to find and develop a good team to support you and be certain to test your approaches before fully committing to the plays.

The Pope may be Argentinean but on Sunday the Christ himself was German.

Still wondering what you can do with such tips now that the World Cup is over? Since Rio will be hosting the Olympics in 2016, these might come in handy… And of course, you can always turn to us to help you speak the language of the hosts.

Sponsored Posts

Interested in having a sponsored post on TechWhirl? Learn More >>

Subscribe to TechWhirl via Email