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Branding South Africa: Three Reasons For Its Success

by on June 26, 2010

In May 2004, when the 2010 World Cup emblem was unveiled, South African President Thabo Mbeki made this promise for 2010, “We said we will host the most successful FIFA World Cup ever and we will keep that promise. Africa is ready, Africa’s time has come, Africa is calling!”

The winds are certainly changing, for South Africa. With the approach of the final games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup there is little denial that the event has been a catalyst for economic growth, but more importantly it has been a big promotional opportunity for the entire country to brand itself to the world. A country that was wounded with historically-induced hatreds and fears, is finally showing the world it is ready to move on.

Most countries in the world are trying to promote visitation and economic development in their regions. As I searched online for “nation branding” and went through examples of current campaigns I found a couple of things that most countries had in common:  most of them used online tools such as their own websites, Faceboook and Twitter accounts, they all had targeted messaging, and every single one produced lots and lots of advertising. However, while many countries saw double-digit drops in inbound tourism spending, spending by international visitors to South Africa during the first quarter of 2010 increased to nearly $566-million. So what makes South Africa different?

1-Creating Momentum

Most countries have not been as successful leveraging as many social media tools and marketing efforts as South Africa. What have they missed? They haven’t been able to create momentum. South Africa took advantage of an opportunity, since 2002 the International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC) was established to help create a positive and compelling brand image of the country. Therefore, May 2004 was a defining moment for the IMC as the culmination of all their efforts came when the 2010 hosting announcement was made. The next step was to turn 49.32 million South Africans into 49.32 million advocates.

2-Inspirational Communications

The IMC motivated the South African people through targeted messaging and crowd-sourcing to become a part of the national effort to brand South Africa. Once the IMC had their momentum, they gave their advocates the platforms and tools to communicate effectively about South Africa. Brand South Africa’s campaign digs deep into social with a full toolkit of Web 2.0 applications, including videos, a Twitterfeed, Podcasts, Share buttons, and a blog, in order to start the conversation and promote word of mouth. What truly sets South Africa apart from other countries is the utilization of social media networks in measuring the effectiveness of the country’s branding efforts.

Back in 2006 for the previous World Cup in Germany, Twitter didn’t even exist (it was launched in August of 2006) now football players and fans are broadcasting their experience in South Africa through social networks on a daily basis. A friend of mine started his own blog This is Africa. Or at least from my perspective. so that those who stayed home could experience his  encounter with the African nation.

South Africa’s intentions are clear they want all visitors to become brand ambassadors for South Africa. However, in order to do this they will have to create a memorable and positive experience.

3- So This Is Where “Delivering The Brand Promise” Comes In…

When President Thabo Mbeki made his promise, the world was listening, but more importantly his country was listening. What the IMC was able to do, was it took his promise of hosting the most successful FIFA World Cup, defined it, and translated into specific action points for every single South African citizen:

Knowing the national anthem and singing it with pride

– Fly the flag for football, learn the Diski Dance

– Be the best host you can be

– Initiatives such as Football Friday

My theory is that the key to South Africa’s growing success was that it was a able to create an experience far greater than just the World Cup, they where able to show the world through multiple communication channels that South Africa was all about culture and authenticity. Today the South African Diski Dance has the whole world jiving to the African rhythm and the vuvuzela has become an international symbol for South Africa.

According to the Nation Brand Index (Anholt-GMI Q3/2006) after the FIFA World Cup 2006, Germany became the second most valued country brand (from 7th place in 2005). Booking increased by nearly one-third and investors confidence surged to an all-time high. It will definitely be interesting to see the impact of this more-global-than-ever  FIFA World Cup on South Africa.

As they look toward the future, the South African people are making decisive strides in order to keep pace with their global competitors and distinguish themselves in a now very globalized world.  South Africa seized the opportunity of the World Cup to change world-wide-perceptions that associated the nation with racism, AIDS, and poverty. In this changing landscape, the country was able to create its own brand identity, while preserving existent cultures.


From → South Africa

One Comment
  1. Nice format for this post and you share some strong examples of why South Africa is succeeding in building their brand through the World Cup. The list of action points for every South African citizen is particularly powerful. Your three points are good, though the first one needs a bit more explanation … do you think that the World Cup is primarily the reason they had momentum or was is something else? Aside from that, the other thing to watch out for is making too broad of a generalization when using a comparison. You state in several places that South Africa is creating a winning brand (which you prove) but also say that many other countries are failing at this (which needs more proof). If you are going to contrast South Africa against other countries, you need to share an example or two to prove why what South Africa is doing is different and better than other nations. Instead, if you stick with your focus on South Africa, you can probably remove the mentions of comparing to other nations and that would help focus your post. (4)

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