Special Session Summary Planet Soccer and the World Cup 1998: an Unreality Zone of Media, Marketing and Consumption in a Land of Hysterical Fantasy

Clifford J. Shultz, II, Arizona State University West
[ to cite ]:
Clifford J. Shultz, II (1999) ,"Special Session Summary Planet Soccer and the World Cup 1998: an Unreality Zone of Media, Marketing and Consumption in a Land of Hysterical Fantasy", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 238.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Page 238



Clifford J. Shultz, II, Arizona State University West

Soccer’s quadrennial world championship, known around the globe simply as the World Cup, undoubtedly is one of the world’s great spectacles, and a key media event that contributes to the development and growth of global consumer culture. The title of the session was intended to capture the magnitude of the spectacle (cf. Davies 1990, p. 4). Consider that during a four-week period in June and July of 1998, hundreds of thousands of soccer fans attended the matches played at various stadia across France, an estimated 36 billion consumers (cumulative) watched World Cup matches on television; approximately 2 billion television viewers watched the final match between France and Brazil (Sponsorship Research International 1998). Although we live in a world in which hyperbole has become the norm, the significance of the World Cup to many people around the globe cannot be overstated. To some fans the event is literally a matter of life and death: players have been murdered for what some "fans" have perceived to be suboptimal performances; warring nations have suspended military hostilities to play qualifying matches and wars have ensued from match results; pitched battles among partisan fans or hooligans are all too common; suicides are not uncommon in the wake of losses (cf. Glanville 1980; Morris 1981).

Not surprisingly, a high-involvement global spectacle, such as the World Cup, that commands the attention of billions of consumers, is intrinsically interesting to many consumer researchers and marketers. This special session included two presetations and discussion that examined consumption phenomena vis-a-vis the World Cup. Abstracts of the presentations are provided below. Hans Baumgartner served as the discussion moderator.

Gary Bamossy and Cliff Shultz presented, "Vicarious Fanatic Consumption: The Consumption Experiences and Consummations of Soccer Fans and Hooligans." The presenters examined the consumption of the World Cup and ancillary services and products associated with this consumer spectacle, introduced the term vicarious fanatic consumption, and explored the meaning and implications of vicarious fanatic consumption. The findings were based on a review of the extant literature, and the authors’ multi-country fieldwork during the 1998 World Cup and other World Cup experiences since 1982. Insights into the following issues were shared.

*The ways, and to what levels, involvement with the event is expressed; the factors that precipitate this involvement.

*The consumption outcomes one receives in exchange for purchasing a ticket to a venue or from watching a televised match.

*The factors that drive some fans to frenzied states, communal states and sometimes violence; factors that induce violence and antisocial behavior, more broadly .

*The character of consummation, including rituals, the sense of incompletion or loss after a lost match, and the tribalism and nationalism of World Cup fanaticism and consumption.

*Variances in involvement and consumption as functions of sex and class differences.

*Secondary and tertiary purchases and consumptions, e.g., transportation, lodging, alcohol, banners, clothing, tattoos, fireworks, etc. that enhance the consumption spectacle and the manner companies capitalize on the needs and wants that drive these consumptions.

Tony Meenaghan and Adrian Hitchen presented, "Commercial Sponsorship: Corporate Benefits and Consumer Consequences." Commercial sponsorship represents one of the most recent and rapidly growing methods of marketing communications available to management. The value of the world-wide sponsorship market has grown from $2 billion in 1984 to a 1996 value of $16.6 billion; on a world-wide basis the sponsorship industry is valued at some 6% of total advertising spent, however this percentage can vary substantially by country; in terms of year-on-year growth sponsorship, expenditure by US corporations has outstripped that being invested in both mainstream advertising and sales promotion for the past 15 years (Sponsorship Research International 1997). To these indications of corporate investment in the sponsorship medium must be added the additional expenditure on support promotions and advertising to leverage properly the initial sponsorship investment outlays. Both the recency and scale of current investment in the medium reflect corporate beliefs regarding the efficiency of sponsorship as a marketing communications medium.

Sport continues to be the dominant investment category. In the US market some 65% of all sponsorship investment is in sport, while in countries such as Germany, South Africa, Sweden and the UK the sports percentages are 63%, 80%, 65% and 61%, respectively (Sponsorship Research International 1997). Research has primarily focused on two areas: management practices with regard to sponsorship, and consumer effects in terms of recall and recognition studies. This presentation firstly examined the benefits pursued by corporate sponsors in terms of consumer effects sought. Such effects go beyond mere awareness as measured in terms of recall and recognition, and must entail corporate brand and image building, and in certain instances sales, although linkages to these latter effects are more difficult to evoke.Secondly, the presentation examined consumer reaction to the sponsors’ participation with particular sports media, and the relationship, which such participation engenders. This aspect of sponsorship has not been well studied; the presentation suggested possible directions to improve understanding of it. The presentation concluded with discussion on both aspects vis-a-vis corporate benefits and consumer consequences, within the context of sponsorship for sport, particularly the World Cup, the world’s most popular sporting event.


Davies, Pete (1990), All Played Out, the full Story of Italia ’90, London: Heinemann.

Glanville, Brian, The History of the World Cup, Winchester: Faber and Faber, Inc.

Morris, Desmond (1981), The Soccer Tribe, London: Jonathan Cape.

Sponsorship Research International (1997), raw data, London.

Sponsorship Research International (1998), raw data, London.