New Delhi: Football, a religion for millions of fans, transcends geographical boundaries and brands have begun to take note of it. While India has no representation at the upcoming FIFA World Cup being held in Russia, a variety of brands across categories have been promoting the tournament among its Indian fans.

On one hand long-standing FIFA sponsors like Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Adidas have launched the India leg of their global campaigns, homegrown performance wear brand Alcis Sports has associated with the tournament for the first time by bagging the mandate to sell official FIFA merchandise.

“I believe football is slowly becoming a deep interest sport in India second only to cricket and kabbadi. While most of its following comes from the metros and states like West Bengal, Kerala and Goa, brands find it worth spending their marketing money to connect with the loyal and growing football fan base," said Harish Bijoor, brand strategy expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Budweiser Experiences, which enjoys 25-year long sponsorship association with FIFA World Cup, is promising to provide immersive FIFA experience by hosting 250 special screenings across the country. It will also take a contingent of over 30 trade partners and consumers to FIFA World Cup in Russia. The brand is also running a localised version of its global campaign ‘Light up the World Cup.

“India is one of the top priority markets for Budweiser globally and one of the fastest growing one too. Since, FIFA is one of the biggest sporting spectacle across the globe including India, we aim to offer the ultimate opportunity for fans here to come together through our integrated campaign and celebrate this global moment," said Kartikeya Sharma, marketing director – India, AB InBev.

Like Budweiser, smartphone maker and a FIFA sponsor, Vivo has rolled out ‘Pass the swag’ campaign which aims to unite both football and music fans around the world to create memorable moments at the tournament. The brand is leveraging social media and digital platforms to connect with fans in India.

Adidas, which has an over 40-year association with the tournament, is betting big on digital, outdoor and on-ground activations to connect with fans across cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Chennai, Cochin and Guwahati. Apart from installing interactive billboards, putting up a giant 3D version of FIFA ball (Telstar 18), the brand will also be mounting a live 2D scoreboard to keep football lovers abreast with the latest scores of the games in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. It has also partnered with chat platform WhatsApp to create over hundred FIFA related GIFs which can be easily shared on the app.

“We have an active fan following of football in India and we want to connect and engage with them," said Amrith Gopinath, brand marketing director, Adidas India.

Meanwhile, Alcis Sports, an Indian performance wear brand, has bagged the mandate to sell official FIFA merchandise through large format stores like Shoppers Stop, individual brand stores and e-tailer Flipkart.

“Alcis Sports expects an unprecedented response from football fans in India and we have lined up a comprehensive range of over 550 articles for fans in the country," said Roshan Baid, managing director, Alcis Sports.

Apart from launching FIFA special bottles, beverage giant Coca-Cola, a long standing FIFA sponsor, has partnered with film exhibition chain INOX Leisure Ltd to give away branded merchandise to fans across the country from April to July. Vodafone India has also taken a consumer engagement route by running a gaming contest on MyVodafone app to leverage the football fever in the country. Users can score goals on to earn points and win prizes from 11 June to 15 July.

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