If Atlanta makes the final cuts to host a World Cup soccer event, area businesses could see sponsorship opportunities that have a far more global reach than even the Olympic Games.

Atlanta is one of 18 American cities named Jan. 12 as part of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s bid for the World Cup in 2018 and 2022.

U.S. Soccer will make its formal bid to Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the World Cup’s governing authority, May 14. FIFA is expected to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments on Dec. 2.

With that award also comes sponsorships to the host nation, “which allows local companies to promote an association with the FIFA World Coup within the host country,” according to FIFA.

For example, the 2010 World Cup, to be held in South Africa, includes global sponsorships from companies like McDonald’s, Sony and Adidas, but also South African companies First National Bank and NEO Africa, an information technology company.

Those sponsorships will end once the World Cup games are moved to the next host country, according to FIFA.

The 2006 World Cup, held in Germany, included Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom AG as the telecommunications company sponsor. Deutsche Telekom AG is not a sponsor of the 2010 World Cup. That sponsorship now belongs to Telkom SA Ltd. in South Africa.

The rights include category exclusivity, association, local marketing programs and domestic media exposure, FIFA says.

“FIFA has its own set of corporate partners that use the World Cup as a vehicle for them, but there are opportunities for companies both large and small to get involved,” said Scott Moran, principal at Berman Fink Van Horn P.C., who is serving as the attorney for the host city committee.

Sponsorships would come at the national level, but also at the city level, said Moran, who has been involved in Atlanta’s bid process from the start and has been involved in professional soccer for nearly 10 years.

Expect to see Atlanta’s “heavy hitters” get involved with the World Cup, said Bob Hope, president ofHope-Beckham Inc. in Atlanta.

The World Cup “has a greater power worldwide than the Olympics,” he said.

And it’s intangible what companies that sponsor the World Cup get back, Hope said. “Companies that get involved in the World Cup are world leaders. It establishes and builds relationships at all levels.”

Sponsorships of any major sporting event isn’t always about immediate financial gain, said Mark Dickens, spokesman for United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) in Atlanta.

UPS sponsors a NASCAR team, was a sponsor of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and will sponsor the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“We view them very much as investments,” he said.

In the NASCAR sponsorship, UPS gets exclusive rights to all tracks to pick up items for racing teams, news media and officials, Dickens said. “That increases package volume in a real way.”

For the Beijing Olympics, UPS was the logistics sponsor, which included inventory management, warehouse control, transportation and logistics, he said.

“That opened up a lot of doors for us that will benefit us for decades,” Dickens said. “We’re looking at something similar in London.”

Although London is not an emerging market the way China is, UPS’ sponsorship will allow it “to showcase a wide range of our capability, that goes beyond what many people think of us,” he said.

Being a sponsor can foster customer relations by allowing UPS to host customers and employees at NASCAR events, “and that goes a long way, too.”

One Atlanta-based company that is already a premier sponsor of FIFA and the World Cup is The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO). Coca-Cola has had a formal association with FIFA since 1974, according to the company, and its official sponsorship of FIFA World Cup began in 1978. Coca-Cola has had stadium advertising at every FIFA World Cup since 1950.

Hope expects other Atlanta-based businesses with global reach, including UPS, The Home Depot Inc.(NYSE: HD), AT&T Wireless, a division of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), and GE Energy, a division ofGeneral Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), will likely get involved if Atlanta becomes a host city.

It’s been nearly two decades since the United States played host to U.S. Men’s Soccer in the World Cup. That was in 1994. Just two years later, Atlanta played host to the 1996 Olympic Games.

Being a host city for “the World Cup would be more powerful than the Olympics because it has more respect around the world,” Hope said. “Soccer is just enormous.”

U.S. Soccer has projected a $400 million to $600 million economic impact — and 55,000 to 100,000 jobs — for Atlanta during a monthlong round of games. That impact could be double the $292 million economic impact of the 2000 Super Bowl held in Atlanta.

Separately, Atlanta is also vying for the International Broadcast Center, which would be the headquarters for international media during the World Cup games. Atlanta, home to news giant CNN, other TimeWarner properties TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network, played host to a similar media contingent during the 1996 Olympics.

Bid committee members are cautiously hopeful Atlanta has a very good chance at being a host city.

“We completely believe Atlanta should be in the final 12 [host cities for the U.S. bid],” said Jim Smith, vice president of marketing for the Atlanta Falcons, who went to New York with other city leaders to make the pitch for Atlanta. “We have to map out our next strategy to get to the final 12.”

But FIFA was “very impressed” with Atlanta’s bid, he said.

“We’ll probably be one of the few cities in the small fraternity that have hosted both an Olympics and a World Cup,” said William Pate, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, also a member of the bid committee. “This continues to put us on a world stage, where we want to be.”

— Staff writer J. Scott Trubey contributed to this story.

Reach Schoolcraft at lschoolcraft@bizjournals.com

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Lisa R. Schoolcraft Staff Writer

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