What in the world were they thinking?
The FIFA World Cup was perhaps the ideal opportunity for elite brands to capitalise on the enormous global audience and rake in big money.
And sure, we have seen some creative adverts and commercials referencing the tournament. However, there have also been some absurd — and outright bizarre — campaigns.
These commercial were either the worst creative ideas ever, or cringe-worthy attempts that try to come across as "hilarious" — yes, we're looking at you, Burger King.
1. Mastercard to donate 10,000 meals if Messi or Neymar scores
Goals that changes lives: for each goal scored by Messi or Neymar Jr. Mastercard will donate the equivalent of 10,000 meals to @WFP to fight childhood hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean #TogetherWeAre10 #StartSomethingPriceless https://t.co/URfIp77ElN pic.twitter.com/Ckq61oJgld— Noticias Mastercard (@MastercardLAC) May 31, 2018
On paper and in theory, it sounds like a good idea — no wonder Mastercard approved of it. In their "Goals that change lives" campaign, Mastercard promised that for each goal Lionel Messi or Neymar scored in the World Cup, it would donate the equivalent of 10,000 meals to the World Food Programme to fight childhood hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The tweet caused massive outrage on social media — Mastercard was accused of pulling a distasteful publicity stunt. Many people believe they should simply donate the money if they have it, rather than linking their charity to Messi or Neymar's tournament scores.
One Twitter user said: "Don't let the fate of starving children rest on multimillionaire footballers," and former England footballer Ian Wright chipped in that it was "easily the worst marketing" he has seen.
Easily the worst marketing I've ever seen😱. This seriously got through the different levels of management, and you all said go ahead 😢 https://t.co/uPbGU9VH0H— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) June 2, 2018
As a result of the backlash, Mastercard ended its meals-donation campaign. Messi and Neymar failed to score in their opening games anyway.
2. Burger King offers a lifetime of Whoppers to women who get pregnant by players
Why, Burger King, why?
For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!Russian Burger King
The Russian branch of the global franchise thought the World Cup would be a perfect time to launch a nationalist, patriarchal "breeding programme" for Russian women. And they backed it up with a serious cash offer.
The "deal" would see the women get around R630,000 in cash if they managed to get impregnated by a World Cup player. Burger King's Russian post, translated, said: "Burger King, within the framework of social responsibility, has appointed a reward for girls who get pregnant from the stars of world football."
"For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!"
Burger King's sexist view of women as "breeding machines" backfired massively, and the company later issued an apology: "We are sorry about the clearly offensive promotion that the team in Russia launched online." It said the offer "does not reflect our brand or our values, and we are taking steps to ensure this type of activity does not happen again".
3. Lick the face of a football legend
Another desperate World Cup tie-in failure, this time from Just Eat. To "celebrate" the football, Just Eat created a series of limited-edition 2018 Football Plates, customised with pictures of footballers — so you can "lick the player" when cleaning your plate.
Former Liverpool and England legend John Barnes was the "face" of the campaign, so no doubt he was licked by plenty of Just Eat fans. One word: "EEUW!"
It might be the weirdest and bizarre World Cup commercial... except for:
U.S. football's top goal scorer encourages U.S. soccer fans to support Mexico
This doesn't involve a brand per se, but it certainly qualifies as a publicity campaign. The U.S. did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, so American soccer fans get to pick a country to support (although many have no doubt opted for their Dear Leader's favourite, Russia....) Landon Donovan, the joint all-time top goalscorer for the U.S., starred in a campaign encouraging Americans to support their neighbours Mexico at the World Cup.
It was always going to provoke controversy, so Donovan had to take to social media to explain himself.