How Beats scored against official FIFA sponsor Sony

Football players have been spotted wearing Beats headphones everywhere during the World Cup. “Neymar likes them Brazil-green. England's Wayne Rooney, white. Luis Suarez, blue,” said a Reuters report.

As a result, official football governing body FIFA has had to ban the headgear from inside the stadiums, because the official headphone sponsor is Sony.

It looks like Beats is up to its old tricks again. Previously, it deployed a thousand free headphones to top athletes during the London Olympics, resulting in the Olympic Committee having to stop athletes from adorning the gear.

In fact, was being banned even better publicity for Beats?

“Whenever a brand doesn’t have to pay to be seen, the power of its appeal and “cool factor” increases in consumer minds,” said Lawrence Chong, CEO of Consulus.

“People always love a rebel. The distinction here is, the Beats headphones are just so obvious due to its design. So again, brands must not simply design to make things look nice. The design needs to have a strong visual signature to achieve this kind of effect. I am sure other people are having headphones of other brands, but FIFA is not bothered by those simply because they are not making as much of a statement as the ones by Beats,” added Chong.

Moreover, what gave Beats the boldness to pull off such a ballsy move is its long-term relationship with the music community. The rebellious marketing strategies Beats embarks are not done on whim, said Chong. To achieve such an effect the move needs to be well thought out and planned ahead of the global event.

Scot Pettet, vice president, APAC for Lewis PR lauded Beats for successfully infiltrating the event without the hefty price tag associated with being an official sponsor.

"The added publicity from being ‘banned’ by Fifa will only help Beats to create the impression that Beats are the preferred brand, rather than a brand that athletes are being forced to use," Pettet said.

Too little too late for Sony?

To counter the sneaky moves made by Beats, Sony also handed to participating players a free set of its own headphones to take to the games. However, the move might be too little, too late.

At this point, said Tom Child, strategist at Landor, the Beats brand has an attitude and personality that appeals to a wide range of people. This is partly due to the high profile endorsement of outspoken owner Dr Dre.

"The American rapper has built a brand that not only has its own unique personality but also allows consumers to express their personality too.  Simply put, the Beats whole brand experience has led to the highest level of loyalty from their users – advocacy. Consumers are now acting as ambassadors for the brand and this state of loyalty means no number of free products from Sony can displace beats from the heads of players at the World Cup,” said Child.

“Sony is like a sleeping giant with access to a great portfolio of celebrities and lifestyle products. But due to the lack of synergy, their product teams are probably not collaborating with their entertainment folks and the brand needs to collaborate the two teams to brings the best of the two and move away from a feature-based approach towards one of experiences in order to make Sony cool again,” said Chong.

Check out the campaign launched by Beats ahead of the World Cup season: