April 14th, 2010
02:33 PM GMT
Where will the FIFA football World Cup take place in two months time? For most football fans, it will take place in FIFA-land and not South Africa.
Twenty six BILLION people will watch the World Cup on their television over the month-long tournament, say FIFA. South Africa Tourism estimates that between 300,000 and 350, 000 people will physically travel to South Africa to watch the games. Others say South Africa will be lucky in the current economic climate to get anywhere close to 300,000 visitors in June and July 2010
So how does the South African tourism industry impress those billions of people, as well as the estimated hundreds of thousands planning to travel here over the winter?
It’s a difficult task because, as the South Africans quickly figured out, working with the Swiss-based FIFA organization is quite a challenging experience. FIFA, understandably, likes to standardize.
Their aim is to ensure the same level of quality at all levels of the tournament – from the color and texture of the grass on the football pitches to the type of advertising displayed for kilometers around all 11 stadiums.
For many in South Africa, that means ‘whitewashing.’ Critics here complain that the billions of people who watch the World Cup football on television will probably not really see any difference between this year’s World Cup in Africa and the tournament that was played in Germany. The televised games will all be a sanitized, FIFA-endorsed football la-la land, they say.
So how does South Africa capitalize on this very narrow margin of opportunity? The World Cup has been billed as the ultimate marketing opportunity for the country – but is it really? Are the billions of dollars spent on selling South Africa to first-time visiting sports fans worth it? These are all questions South Africans are wondering out aloud.
The real measure for South Africa is not how many people get on a plane, wearing their brightly coloured football shirts. Instead, it is how the country manages to sell itself - within the tightly controlled parameters of FIFA’s restrictions - to the 26 billion viewers sitting at home watching the games on their televisions.
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