The FIFA World Cup is in full flow in Brazil. Which players are commercially the most attractive for sponsors? Who has the most deals? We have researched the players and compiled the most commercially successful 2014 World Cup team.

The absence of Zlatan is painful for Nike and Volvo because he is not at the World Cup. He is paid a princely €14 million net from his club Paris St. Germain and pulls in another €6 million from personal deals but alas Sweden lost in the play-offs against Portugal and was not in the 32 team line-up at the World Cup in Brazil.

Fellow super star Ronaldo who earns €17.7 million salary per year and €19 million from personal deals made it through to the group stages in Brazil. Sadly he is already on his way home.

On the basis of research and information from the WPP network, player’s agents and football publications, we have analysed all the income from players participating in Brazil. Using this data a team has been assembled and not on the basis of football trophies or on pitch performances.

Beckham changed the world

David Beckham signalled the onset of a new era in 1997 when he signed a deal with hair styling brand Brylcreem. Prior to this period footballers were general associated with sport brands and typical male products with the occasional foray into a commercial which could only be considered as a bit of comedy or slap stick entertainment. Thanks to Beckham the perceptions of international footballers began to change and more brands considered them as ambassadors for their products and services. From Breitling watches to H&M clothing, football was no longer a dirty word. The media reach increased exponentially and it was no longer footballer’s boots or cars that were being promoted. Not every category or brand is convinced about the added value of using footballers in their marketing activities. But in recent years the globalisation and commercialization of football has resulted in significant growth for players as brand ambassadors.

Sporting performances are important but the total package makes the difference

Naturally there is a link between the technical performance of a player and his commercial opportunities with brands. But commercially successful players such as Vinnie Jones, Carlos Valderrama and even David Beckham were not the most gifted players of their generation. They were more dependent upon their charisma and behaviour. A good example is the South Korean Ahn Jung-hwan who scored the winning goal at World Cup 2002 that eliminated the Italians. An average player but that goal elevated Ahn to superstar status in Asia with many brands wanting to be associated with his new found cult hero status. It is clearly the total package that is important with football as one of the elements but certainly not the only element that makes a player commercially attractive.

Most noticeable trends

Brands rarely exploit the unique characteristics of a player. They take the well known path; famous player loves my product. It is left to the execution of the idea to create the impact, not the idea itself. An exception is Volvo and Nike where they have created something that is really influenced by Zlatan himself. Sadly Zlatan is not at the World Cup. More attacking players, less defenders. Football revolves around goals, spectacular goals. Everyone remembers the goal by Dennis Bergkamp against the Argentinians at World Cup 1998 in France. In 2014 he is one of the central figures in the Heineken commercial to activate their World Cup 2014 campaign. Which performance is often recalled by a defender? Very few, if any.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are the main suppliers. Real Madrid has followed a clear policy in recent years to attract and secure super stars. For players such as Ronaldo, Zidane and Figo there is one word: Galacticos. Barcelona is more football focussed. But players at these football clubs with millions of fans all over the world simply make them commercially more attractive.

Harold Zwarts
Creative Strategy Director, Trefpunt-PRISM Amsterdam

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