FIFA Win A Big Boost to Brand Saudi Arabia

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Co-Founder and Director of Multiple Award-Winning Independent Marketing Communications Consultancy Agency W7Worldwide

The euphoric win pulled off by Saudi Arabia by beating Argentina 2-1, will go down in the history of both Saudi football and FIFA World Cup itself. It has brought the Kingdom enormous global attention, immense pride, and a whole lot of debate.

Saudi citizens term the win as the “dawn of a new era;” Arabs, in general, see the win as theirs owing to pan-Arab unity, while political analysts have already begun attributing the win to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. (Remember his inspiring speech before the game started?)

Saudi Minister for Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said in an interview with CNN: “We surprised everyone, and what a surprise it was! It was unbelievable. It was a world-class performance despite facing all the criticisms about Saudi sports.”

Before we evaluate what the FIFA win means for Saudi Arabia and its brand abroad, we need to understand why the soccer match matters most when it comes to global attention and has become a talking point worldwide.

In a small country like Bangladesh, more than 10 million viewers watched the Saudi Arabia-Argentina match on the Toffee app. According to TGM Global World Cup Survey, 85.3% of Saudis watched the match on Tuesday. Nearly 63.3% of Saudis are estimated to have watched it on TV or an online streaming platform, while 26.6% of Saudi fans went to Qatar to watch the World Cup live. The power and reach of soccer games can be measured by the simple fact that more than 3.5 billion people watched the last World Cup matches, played in 2018.

So, how do we assess such a mammoth event that attracts nearly half of the world’s attention? In terms of the public relations campaign for a country’s branding, it is huge — possibly requiring billions of dollars in budget and years of planning before launching the brand promotions. This is what Saudi Arabia has achieved by way of just one win. More than half of the world today is talking about Saudi Arabia, extending the debate to its leaders, people, culture, and tourist attractions. 

Newspapers can’t stop talking about what Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said to the team before the match: All I want to tell you is stay relaxed, play your game and do your thing… What I care about is that you enjoy these three games… I do not want any of you to play under psychological pressure that affects your natural level.”

These few words spurred the Falcon boys — “the underdogs” — to maul the tigers, snatching the win from their jaws.

In terms of branding, the victory came riding on Saudi Arabia’s rising national brand value. According to Brand Finance, the value of the national brand of Saudi Arabia has increased by 7% to $768 billionAndrew Campbell, managing director of Brand Finance Middle East, said that the Saudi value has grown “significantly” thanks to its efforts to open up to the world.

It’s only a matter of time before we accurately calculate the actual value this single win has raised for the Kingdom’s national branding.

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