The FIFA World Cup is a powerful agent in the imaging, re-imaging and branding of Qatar and the host country must plan, leverage, and sustain the branding legacy after the World Cup through its portfolio of events, according to Dr Kamilla Swart-Arries, Associate Professor at HBKU.
With weeks to the first World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world, Qatar is well prepared to host more than 1.5 million people from November 20 to December 18. The World Cup no doubt provides the best platform whereby Qatar’s reputation can be enhanced amongst a target audience.
Dr. Kamilla spoke to the Qatar Tribune about the legacies Qatar can leave behind: “Qatar has achieved significant milestones along the road to hosting the first ever FIFA World Cup in the Middle East. It will be important for Qatar to plan, leverage and sustain the branding legacy (amongst others) after the World Cup through the portfolio of events to be hosted such as the F1 Grand Prix, the FINA 2023 Swimming World Championships and other events in the lead up to the 2030 Asian Games and beyond. The South African case underscores that planning for legacy in the post-event period is as critical as it is in the lead-up. Moreover, measuring and evaluating legacy should be integrated into all phases of event planning and hosting as well.”
Dr Kamilla who’s also the Director of the Sport and Entertainment Management programme in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE), outlined lessons Qatar can learn from the South Africa by drawing parallels between the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. She stated that, like Qatar, South Africa has used mega-sport events to transform the country’s image and boost its global reputation. Following the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, South Africa used the hosting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup to reposition itself in the post-apartheid era as the “Rainbow Nation,” embracing diversity. After years of international isolation, the 2010 FIFA World Cup served to further cement the country’s emergence in the global sporting world.
She compared the 2006 Asian Games to South Africa’s hosting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, stating that the Games were a catalyst for Qatar’s positioning as an international sport destination. Qatar, like South Africa, embarked on a strategy to host international sporting events, which has become an increasingly important feature of its reputation and image.
Just as the 2010 FIFA World Cup was held for the first time on the African continent, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held for the first time in the Middle East. South Africa, like Qatar, was heavily criticised by Western media, particularly over crime, safety, and security. The country also took advantage of the opportunity to change international perceptions of Africa and commonly held stereotypes of African imagery related to poverty and HIV/AIDS.
One of the most enduring and significant legacies of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is the positive change in brand image of both South Africa and Africa.
She said: “Although Qatar has faced different brand challenges to that of South Africa, the negative media coverage parallels the South African case. Just like South Africa, Qatar will be able to use this imagery to showcase its technological advancement as well as its Arabic hospitality. The 2022 FIFA World Cup can go a long way in addressing Islamophobia just as the 2010 FIFA World Cup addressed Afro-pessism.”
Speaking about how the World Cup can significantly boost the tourism industry in Qatar, she said: “Sport mega-events like the World Cup presents unprecedented global media coverage to a host destination (way beyond the budgets of many destination marketing organisations). It also provides an opportunity to reach new markets and attract football tourists to a destination who may never have considered visiting had it not been for the World Cup. Once these tourists experience a destination, they are likely to provide positive word-of-mouth marketing as well as repeat visitation. The destination also features in the broadcast imagery which not only presents favourable images of the destination but can also create awareness of other destination attributes.”