Interview: adidas Marketing Director Gavin Cowley on the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa

Gavin Cowley is the adidas Marketing Director and Local Head 2010 FIFA World Cup

I had the pleasure to work with him on several football projects.  Gavin has a true passion for football and genuine dedication to make football a unique social developing and unifying component for South Africa.  He is a key player within the adidas organisation, his knowledge of the country, his integrity make him a respected and trusted character. 

I interviewed him to get his view on the first World Cup in South Africa; on the marketing activations, competition, but also on how the World Cup will contribute to the social and economic development of the country.


Karl Lusbec

KL – It is going to be the first World Cup on the African continent.  What is the football pulse at the moment in South Africa?

GC – FIFA World Cup fever is strong, South Africans are united behind the event and also experiencing matches at the FIFA World Cup venues already.  Research studies show that South Africans are confident that the event will be a success and that the country will derive future benefits from the spectacle.

KL – adidas is raising excitement by touring a giant jersey in South Africa to showcase a unified country.  Why unity as a key message?

GC – The adidas UMU (Unite Mzansi Unite) project has been wonderfully successful.  Diversity in Unity is a key adidas brand attribute for the FWC as well as being the motto of our country.  South Africa is a diverse country in many aspects, geographically, topographically, its peoples etc.  UMU is geared to support the process of unifying all of South Africa behind the FIFA World Cup.  You must remember that not all South Africans are necessarily football lovers and this is an opportunity to bring everyone together in celebration of what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us.

adidas Giant Jersey Video (click here)

KL – It is often said that South Africa is not ready yet to host the event.  What is your take on that?

DC – I believe that we continue to surprise many of the doomsayers.  Our stadia are all completed; the cities are ready, revamped airports are world class.  There is no question that we will be ready to welcome the world!

KL – Puma had two teams in the African Cup Final in Angola and sent a strong marketing message to football in Africa.  Has Puma become adidas’ strongest challenger in Africa?

GC – adidas has a very strong position in Africa.  We have a formal partnership with CAF, the governing body of African football, where we have the official ball of the African Cup of Nations, we equip the referees and officials and we currently partner more teams overall in Africa than any other brand.  We can add our portfolio of individual players under contract and we are confident that our programme is Africa is vibrant and successful and contributes to us being the leading football sports brand in the world.

KL – Puma sponsors 11 African teams and have Samuel Eto’o as a global brand icon.  What are adidas’ views on its competitor’s activities in Africa?

DC – adidas partners 17 Federations in Africa.  As we all know, competition is healthy and we would like to be judged on our overall contribution that also includes vibrant social responsibility programmes of our own and linked to FIFA.

KL – During the World Cup 2006 in Germany, adidas launched the ‘adidas World of Football’ in front of the Berlin Parliament.  It was a huge success.  Can we expect such activities during the 2010 World Cup?

DC – The ‘adidas World of Football’ was a resounding success in a well developed market.  Here in South Africa we are well geared to ensuring that legacy and contribution to society are strong pillars.  What we do during the FIFA World Cup needs to live beyond the event and activations that will improve the country are vital.  We are sure that the manner in which we are showcasing our brand in South Africa will show just why we are the leaders in football in the world.

KL – Can you tell us more about the origins of the Jabulani, name of the World Cup 2010 official match ball?

DC – Jabulani shows how well adidas has embraced the FWC event.  It is an African word that loosely translates to the word “celebration” – most appropriate for the occasion.  It is a word that is freely used in our country.  Some years ago South African performer, P.J. Powers, composed the song “Jabulani”; we have a mall in Soweto (the largest township in South Africa) by the same name and so on. It is a most appropriate name.

KL – What are adidas’ plans to reach the poorer areas/townships and a potential legacy for football and adidas in these areas post World Cup and 2010?

GC – adidas has a strong social responsibility programme.  Often major events are geared to the big cities.  However the adidas UMU programme visits townships throughout the country, adidas supports the FIFA Football for Hope movement in the townships, a partnership with SCORE (Sports Coaches Outreach) ensures that football is used as a tool to send out strong social messages to young people and there are many other initiatives that contribute to assisting those underprivileged people.

KL – What are adidas’ plans to use Social Media with the World Cup sponsorship?

DC – Social media have become a vital part of the global communication machinery.  adidas embraces the use of these tools as part of the overall process.

KL – What would be the next steps for adidas football post world cup in South Africa?

DC – To build on the foundations laid at the 2010 FIFA World Cup

KL – The 2006 World Cup in Germany gave adidas a huge sales boost.  Do you anticipate such a scenario for the 2010 World Cup knowing the current economic downturn?

DC – There are very positive commercial and economic developments in relation to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Africa, and indeed South Africa, are developing markets and it is clear that this FIFA World Cup will provide a massive economic boost.

About author

Karl Lusbec
Karl Lusbec 7 posts

Karl has over 10 years experience in marketing with Adidas and EA Sports, working with the likes of AC Milan, Liverpool, France and Argentina. Follow me on @KarlLusbec

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