The World Cup – nation branding opportunity for small states

September 4, 2010

It’s no news that mega events attract money, publicity and exposure, all of which are good for small countries looking to promote their nation brands. Leaving immediate measurable economic gains aside (as we all know, sport is big business) my observation is focused on a more intangible but essential nation brand output related to Slovenia’s participation at the World Cup and the benefits which “football diplomacy” has brought to the country’s visibility.
Being a small country Slovenia faces certain challenges common to small states such as the lack of recognisability or interest of the global public. Competing at the World Cup ensured Slovenia the attention of world-wide public at a scale which standard advertising or public diplomacy efforts could not achieve. Slovenia was the smallest country at the World Cup and I think it is safe to say that being so small and relatively unknown played to its advantage especially because after winning Algeria it competed against much bigger states with strong nation brands – USA and UK. Both matches attracted particular attention of those nations’ public. On June 18th, the day of Slovenia – USA match, “usa slovenia world cup” has topped Google searches in the US with “us vs. slovenia” coming 3rd and “Slovenia map” 4th. Also, in June alone Slovenian embassy in London received more questions about Slovenia than in the past 10 years together. The interest in the country was anticipated and the Slovenian Tourist Board launched an unprecedented campaign in the UK . The football themed campaign with the slogan “Slovenia…bet you’ll love it” used an interesting approach and promised everybody who booked their holidays 25% refund in case Slovenia made it to the quarter finals, 50% if it made it to semi-final and a full refund in case Slovenia won the World Cup finals.
Despite the fact that Slovenia didn’t make it to the quarter finals success was evident – for a small country which often gets mixed with Slovakia, attending the World Cup was a unique chance to acquire the world’s attention. More political events in the past, such as presiding over the EU Council may have attracted specialised public, however to reach to the mass audience a less complex issue and a more people-friendly message such as football is needed. I cannot asses the real impact of this World Cup on business and tourism however one is certain – more people have not only heard about Slovenia but know where it is, what its goalkeeper’s name is and are likely to be more receptive of the news about the country in the future. Sports diplomacy definitely pays off.


One comment

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Billions LEC, rcmb. rcmb said: PD Networks: #publicdiplomacy Vedrana Trbusic on The World Cup and Slovenia's image http://wp.me/pTmxI-3R […]

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