In my June 14 post I revisited a Harvard Business Review online article I wrote in 2012 about evaluating mega-sports events, using the London Olympics as a case study. In that post the question I raised was essentially how effective Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup had been.
To answer, let’s first briefly recap. Prior to the start of the World Cup, global media reports were generally negative. On one hand, anticipation was high that the home team would win the sporting aspects of the competition, but lose the economic and societal PR battle. Recall that the host nation spent between $11-14 billion dollars; that many of the venues were not completed by the start of the event; and that there had been numerous protests and social upheaval, particularly in the year prior, that garnered global attention. There were threats of more transportation disruptions within a day of the first match. Tensions were high.
What a difference one month can make. As expected, Brazil won its opening match vs. Croatia, although the home team did not display the kind of play one would expect of a potential champion. Nevertheless, it was a win, and one could sense Brazilians everywhere breathing a collective sigh of relief. Also as expected, football took over as the dominant media story, with reports of infrastructure and transportation disasters and crises all but disappearing, thankfully.
We now know Brazil’s football team failed, despite expectations (perhaps unrealistic in retrospect) that this 5-time world champion could win yet again. Germany won the crown vs. Brazil’s arch rivals, Argentina. But more importantly, the World Cup was generally quite successful, and Brazil should be proud. The economic impact will take longer to accurately assess-current figures are decidedly mixed. While the government officially estimated that more than 700,000 temporary and permanent jobs were created, such estimates need further analysis to understand the true long-term employment impact. Standard economic measures, such as the country’s leading indicator of industrial production, fell in June to its lowest level since 2010. Key sectors, such as the auto and steel industries, saw double digit percentage declines. But the short-term good news is that 600,000-1 million tourists visited the country, and more than 3 million Brazilians traveled within the country during the event. From a global PR perspective, Brazil demonstrated it could overcome adversity to successfully host a complex, global event.
With this apparent success questions remain, both for Brazil and for FIFA. There is still uncertainty about Brazil’s ability to meet the even more diverse demands of hosting the 2016 Olympics, and IOC officials are understandably concerned, despite a relatively problem-free World Cup. Similar to its World Cup efforts, Brazil’s Olympic preparations are behind schedule and over-budget. While the World Cup was a complex event, with 64 matches played in a dozen venues, the Olympics features 28 sports and 306 events played in over 30 venues, creating a complicated tangle of infrastructure and logistical needs that must be carefully integrated, along with an extraordinary eye for detail, to minimise any problems. Sponsors, too, need to be confident that Brazil’s Olympic Organising Committee is able to overcome doubts. Of course, skepticism is a known accomplice in any mega-sports event, and as this World Cup generally showed (with a few exceptions), it may prove to be much ado about nothing.
FIFA faces its own challenges. The controversy surrounding Qatar’s selection for the 2022 World Cup is not likely to abate. Indeed, the investigations will undoubtedly regain momentum in the near future. The Qatar situation brought to light hints of not just a tone-deaf FIFA leadership, but indications of a wilfully cavalier attitude toward transparency and honourable dealings which, if not overtly corrected soon, may well undermine the governing body’s long-term credibility, causing fans, media and sponsors to stay away, and harming football for years to come.
These concerns are very real, and the repercussions of inaction (or insufficient action) will not just affect football as a sport, but its value chain members (fans, suppliers, sponsors, media), damaging the sport’s future economic prospects and also its capacity to create a social good. FIFA must get its house in order.
So what did we learn about Brazil’s World Cup preparations and execution? Brazil’s efforts were similar to those undertaken by many previous mega-sports events host cities, and are most easily (albeit somewhat simplistically) described by three distinct phases:
- Phase 1: Hype: create an energetic, feel-good rationale for the benefits of hosting the event (often based on spurious economic assumptions), communicated to citizens, government leaders, businesses, media, and sport governing bodies.
- Phase 2: Heap: layer enormous expectations and demands on those responsible for developing and implementing the event, including: suppliers, contractors, transportation officials, government agencies, and volunteer groups.
- Phase 3: Hope: rely on external actors in society to build continued post-event gains on the foundation provided by the event (tourism, regional investment, social spending).
While Brazil’s football team did not perform as expected (a bad thing for fans), their handling of the World Cup during the event also did not go as expected (a good thing for Brazil). The unknown is what the country does with this apparent success going forward. A clear plan (known as a post-event activation plan) that describes the long-term, sustainable gains from the World Cup should have been articulated long before now. There is insufficient evidence that such a plan was fully developed for the World Cup, which is a shame. But there is still time to develop and finalise a post-Olympics activation plan. Otherwise, the country will lose most, if not all, of any gains (both in PR goodwill and economic terms) derived from the world’s two biggest mega-sports events.
Source: Article written by Prof. John Davis (Copied from his LinkedIn post)