While all eyes will be focussed on the pitch once the World Cup kicks off this Thursday, there's a battle taking place off of it too. Companies are falling over themselves in an effort to capture the buzz surrounding this year's Brazilian tournament, looking to outdo each other with ever more elaborate footballing-themed stunts. And for every stroke of marketing genius, there's a facepalm fugazi just waiting to follow it up.
Paddy Power's Faked Deforestation Message
Paddy Power caused an uproar last weekend when it posted a picture online, appearing to show that it had chopped down a large swathe of Brazilian rainforest in a short-sighted effort to give the England team a bit of pre-tournament encouragement. Twitter responded by calling the betting business a bunch of "monstrous fuckers".
But the joke was on us! Paddy Power was actually looking to highlight the issue of deforestation with the Photoshopped shot, bringing to attention the fact that an area the size of 122 football pitches is chopped down every 90 minutes in the rainforest region. The problem is, Paddy Power took its time getting the follow-up message out there, so most of the internet now thinks it is just full of Greenpeace-baiting bastards.
Betfair's Oxford Circus Octopus
Remember the giant Octopus that was sat on the back of a broken down truck in Oxford Circus last week? That wasn't just a rib-tickling move by the Gods of Absurd Mishaps, but rather a clinically-conceived marketing trick by the Betfair team, giving a nod back to the results-predicting octopus, Paul. The stunt quickly went viral, and even those stuck in the nearby cephalopod-triggered traffic jam could see the funny side.
Stephen Hawking's World Cup Winning Formula
When even the world's leading football coaches and tacticians can't figure out why England does so badly in the World Cup, who can you turn to? The biggest brain on the planet of course -- Professor Stephen Hawking. It turns out that when he's not solving the mysteries of the universe, he likes to concoct equations for the perfect penalty kick. Paddy Power enlisted his skills to figure out a formula that would predict World Cup winners, a stunt with far less ambiguous and far more positive results than its rainforest blunder.
Adidas Sexist "Sexy" T-Shirts
You're a major sponsor of the biggest sporting tournament on the planet, so it's probably not a good idea to alienate half the world's population by trading on sexism. Adidas dropped the ball with these predictably bawdy t-shirts, channelling the spirit of Benny Hill rather than the spirit of samba. But at least it made up for the crass t-shirts with...
Adidas Bus Crush
...This excellent stunt! The French team had an absolutely horrific World Cup 2014. They were tipped as potential winners, but crashed out in the group stages after in-fighting with then-coach Raymond Domenech saw the team fall apart. Looking to push their inglorious defeat out of all memory, sponsors Adidas symbolically crushed the 2010 team's tour bus in the run up to this year's tournament, much to the delight of French fans.
Asda's Wearable St George's Flag
A £3 wearable St George's flag from Asda, complete with hood? Perfect for the inevitable downpour while you're patriotically watching an outdoor screening of England's World Cup matches, right? Wrong. What Asda's team didn't consider was just how much wearing one of the cloaks would make you look like a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Whoops. Still, I hear it's this summer's must-have accessory if you're planning on heading down to an EDL rally.
Mercedes Test Drive Crash
Mercedes thought it would piggy back off the limelight being shone on the German national football team by taking them for a spin in one of its sports-focussed touring cars. With professional touring car driver Pascal Wehrlein behind the wheel, what could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot actually -- Wehrlein lost control of the car near the team's hotel, injuring two people (one seriously) and leaving his passengers Benedikt Hoewedes and Julian Draxler seriously shaken ahead of the German national team's training schedule.