Bavaria babes take centre stage at Soccer City
Big companies like Adidas and Coca-Cola devote sizable chunks of their marketing budgets to sponsoring the Fifa World Cup, which provides them with massive worldwide exposure and immeasurable returns. Imagine, however, that you’re the CEO of a smaller corporation; one without the cash to join the party. Is there still a way to profit from the biggest show on earth? Executives at Dutch brewery Bavaria must have had this discussion before coming up with their ingenious, if controversial, solution to the problem of competing with the big boys.
During the Netherlands vs. Denmark game at Soccer City, 36 blondes in the crowd stripped down to reveal orange mini-dresses, in what the BBC described as a “gimmick designed to capture the attention of the world’s media.” it was successful. The cameras focused on the women periodically throughout the match. However, the incident also drew the ire of Fifa officials, who ejected the “Bavaria babes” from the stadium in the second half. Two Dutch women were arrested under the Contravention of Merchandise Marks Act (which prevents companies from benefiting from an event without paying for advertising) and accused of organising an ambush marketing campaign.
Ambush marketing? An orange mini-dress had previously been modelled by Dutch WAG Sylvie van der Vaart on behalf of Bavaria Breweries, creating an association between the dresses and the company. It emerged later that Bavaria had given the dresses to the Soccer City women and arranged for them to attend the match.
Why was this a big deal? Budweiser, as an official sponsor of the 2010 World Cup, had paid for exclusive representation at the event. In other words, Fifa committed to keeping advertising from rival breweries out of stadiums and fan parks. The football governing body’s heavy-handed removal of the 36 women from Soccer City, however, only fanned the fire of publicity. This all ensured that Bavaria Breweries, by literally standing out from the crowd, outshined its much larger rival. For minimal cash they briefly took centre stage.
Charges against the two Dutch women were later dropped. Fifa settled with Bavaria, with both parties agreeing to refrain from making any further public comments about the incident.
In a twist, TV personality Robbie Earle was implicated and consequently sacked from British broadcaster ITV. It emerged that complimentary tickets given to the football pundit had been used by the Bavaria babes to attend the Netherlands vs. Denmark game. Earle denies profiting from the exchange, insisting that he gave tickets to a friend, who, unbeknownst to Earle, passed them on to Bavaria.
This was the second time the Dutch brewery had been involved in a World Cup ambush marketing attempt. In 2006, during a match between Holland and Ivory Coast, spectators wearing Bavaria-branded lederhosen (known as Leeuwenhosen) were ordered by officials to remove the offending items of clothing, which were deemed to be in contravention of Fifa’s strict marketing policies.