Q&A: Putting Avaya on the World Cup Map

15 Feb 2002
Avaya is about to embark on the biggest project in its history — to provide the technology for up to 15,000 journalists, among others, at this summer's World Cup. Paul Myer, director of communications at Avaya talks about how his company will cope with its World Cup challenge.

How has Avaya been preparing for the World Cup since it signed its sponsorship deal with FIFA back in June last year?

We have been very busy in the last eight months — this is not a traditional sponsorship deal — we didn't simply pay FIFA money in exchange for marketing rights to sell hotdogs. This is a more complex arrangement — we are the first true technology partner to sponsor the World Cup and first true business-to-business partner.

We have been getting on with the designing and building of a technology network which will run during the World Cup and that is a very demanding and complex task. Failure is not an option. The value of the sponsorship will disappear very quickly if we don't pull it off. We are very confident though that the World Cup will be a technological success for Avaya. 
Avaya is not a very well known brand at the moment. Are you hoping that the World Cup will change this?

We are going to be fairly well known after the World Cup. The difference between sponsoring the World Cup and any other sporting event is that the average bloke in the pub and those in a boardroom approach the competition with the same level of seriousness.

The World Cup is the largest enterprise business in the world for 30 days and the volume of communications traffic that will ride on this network is four times the amount that most countries record in a year. It will be an excellent brand awareness exercise for Avaya.

But Avaya must not waste this opportunity, we must make sure that our sponsorship campaign is focused on people who would appreciate the value of an invitation to the World Cup and use it to grow our business. It will be a traditional hospitality opportunity but on top of that we will be able to take potential clients and journalists behind the scenes and show them some things we are doing that we think will impress them.

What kind of people are you targeting by sponsoring the World Cup?

We are obviously targeting the influencers in the technology industry. In other words, we are not selling hot dogs or beer, we are selling technology and we are trying to attract those people who make multi-million dollar decisions on networks. We really believe sponsoring the World Cup will help us find these new clients.
We will see an uptake. I don't believe that anyone will deny me the claim that if in fact the number of our clients do increase over the next few years that the World Cup was not an influence — I don't need a scientific study to prove that. 
The type of clients we are attracting range from multinational companies such as BT toless established firms such as the Russian Railway Company. 
How difficult has it been technically to have the World Cup in two countries?

We talk about the World Cup but I can tell you from a technical and marketing perspective we are doing two World Cups — this is a mammoth undertaking that because of language and cultural differences in Japan and South Korea and technical issues, has turned into a very complex engagement.

Just from a logistical point of view this is like sending an army to war in a foreign region.

The World Cup in 2006 should be an easier project for us not only because the competition is taking place in one country but because Germany is also very technically alert.

Are you in contact with the other 14 official World Cup sponsors?

We have been working a little bit with Yahoo! — the official website for the World Cup and with Adidas. But our primary contact has been with FIFA IT, Korean Telecom and NTT.

Are you happy working with FIFA?

I am pleased with the relationship with them on a number of different levels. Ambush marketing is clearly an issue for as for anybody and FIFA is able to police its property much more effectively than most other sporting bodies. In fact when we were in Tokyo recently FIFA unveiled to us a web monitoring system which is trawling the web to capture anyone who might be undermining the rights of FIFA and its partners. This has been a primary concern of ours and we feel it being dealt with effectively. We have a very strong relationship with FIFA — we both need each other for this World Cup."