The news that a Berlin undertaker has created a special-edition fune­ral urn in the shape of a football, while another is offering to decorate coffins in the national colours, demonstrates the lengths to which companies will go to be part of the world's biggest footballing event.

A broken metatarsal may have hampered England's chances, but not even death will get in the way of a good promotion opportunity, it appears. With the World Cup, anything goes. This side of the channel, companies may be more circumspect with their World Cup tie-ins, but it hasn't stopped a flood of footballing promotions from some of the most unlikely areas of the food and drink industry.

Take, for example, the extra spicy World Cup Phal curry produced by S&A Foods called 'find-a-loo', that was introduced into the serve-over counter at Asda last week in ­homage to the tournament.

Or a Steak, Ale and a Touch of Swede football pie going into Budgens stores this month as part of the retailer's World Cup campaign. The pie, which comes in packaging that flies the St George's Cross, was launched with the help of Sven and Nancy lookalikes.

Even chopped meat and ham brand Spam has got in on the act with the launch of a commemorative limited-edition World Cup 2006 can, which brand owner Hormel Foods, rather optimistically, claims will become a collector's item.

Swen Neufeldt, general mana­ger for Europe at Hormel Foods says: "The company wanted to do something special to celebrate World Cup 2006 and felt that a Spam special-edition World Cup can offered consumers a fantastic way to support their team.

"The can will appeal to existing and lapsed consumers as well as attrac­ting new users to the brand. It is the perfect way to commemorate World Cup 2006 as football mania takes a grip this summer."

It's not only men that are ­being targeted; companies are also ­appealing to women with their World Cup campaigns.

Halewood International, for ­example, has launched an ad campaign for its Lambrini brand with a footballers' wives theme and Procter & Gamble is ­giving female snackers the chance to spend a day like Victoria Beckham or Colleen McLoughlin as part of an on-pack Pringles promotion for ­neglected women during the tournament.

It's no surprise that companies are exploring any avenues ­possible to get a piece of the football action. According to Anheuser-Busch, owner of one of the tournament's official sponsors Budweiser, this year's competition is likely to

attract viewing figures in the ­region of one billion. Around 20 million people will watch each England match, so any link that companies can get with the tournament could prove fruitful.

In the event of an England win, it is not only products that have made a link with the tournament that will reap the rewards, according to ­analysts at ABN Amro. They say that World Cup-winning nations can expect around a 10% boost to their economies.

Yet the most successful way for companies to make the link is up for debate with some companies opting to become official sponsors and others just riding on the wave of football fever.

Anheuser-Busch reportedly forked out $40m for Budweiser to become a global sponsor, and ­other official sponsors, such as Coca-Cola and Gillette, are likely to have paid similar sums for the privilege of ­being able to carry official FIFA logos as well as World Cup ­images on packa­ging and promotional ­material. Melanie McLeod, business manager for Gillette male blades and razors, believes that official sponsorship status is important in order to unlock the full potential of the tournament.

"Historically, the World Cup is very important to Gillette. From a branded perspective it is the most watched sport out there.

"Twenty three million males in the UK shave and when the tournament comes round every four years it has proven to be the most relevant partnership. It is a definite sales driver."

Gillette has been involved with the World Cup since the 1970 event in Mexico and MacLeod says that this year's sponsorship will be the company's biggest yet.

In the run up to the event the company has launched a raft of promotions including World Cup-branded gift boxes and a gift pack with a free football DVD. It is also running the Gillette Best Young Player Award giving fans the chance to vote for the most outstanding player of the tournament aged 21 or younger.

Coca-Cola Enterprises has also been featuring official FIFA trademarks on its packs and point of sale material, which it says lends authenticity to its World Cup tie-in and gives it an edge over rivals.

Jim Gorczyca, Budweiser UK marketing director, is of a similar viewpoint. He says: "As a sponsor,we have the right to use the official mark of the World Cup and can use the trophy on our packaging and in our advertising.

"Other companies may try to promote their products around the World Cup but no other company can use these images. It's important as retailers want to present a credible promotion and we can use them on our displays."

However, Chris Grantham, consultant at brand agency Dragon Brands, is more sceptical of the extended benefits that an official sponsor has over those that use a more generic football link.

While he says that Gillette,

Coca-Cola and Budweiser all tradi­tionally have strong links with football and will do well out of their sponsorships, he believes unofficial promotions for similar products are also set to reap benefits.

"Any company that makes an invest­ment [as a sponsor] believes it is worth making an official link. It is for some brands but consumers don't think like marketers.

"Brands can very easily make an association with football that could be just as powerful.

"For brands where the scene is relevant and top of mind for the ­audience there is enormous potential for some kind of link, because it is relevant by association."

McVitie's is one such brand. Owner UBUK is running a football promotion on its Jaffa Cakes lines, and while the company cannot ­offer tickets to the World Cup, it has forged a link with former England player Ian Wright.

The company is also playing on the fact that Jaffa Cakes has signed up to be the official energy snack of the England football team following its addition to the team's diet by the England chef back in 2002.

Mark Sugden, director of customer marketing at UBUK, says that links with the World Cup are an oppor­tunity not to be missed.

"Football is so entrenched in the nation's passion that it is important to be a part of it. The activity may not be official but it ties into the ­nation's passion for football.

"There is a way of linking into the football euphoria without investing lots of money, but you need to have established a level of credibility. It is certainly a way for smaller brands to very successfully make money out of links with the event."

Rather than making links specifically to the World Cup, Grantham adds that much success in previous tournaments has been with tie-ins with specific teams or players, as he says that in many cases consumers are more responsive to a human ­aspect rather than an event itself.

This is the tack Carlsberg has ­taken as the official beer of the ­England football team. It is ­tapping into fans' adoration for previous tournament heroes with an advert that shows a Sunday league team com­prising footballing greats such as Sir Bobby Robson, Alan Ball and Peter Beardsley.

One advantage that comes with being an official sponsor is the ­ability to offer match tickets to the tournament, but Grantham again offers a word of caution as to how effective this mechanic is.

"Tickets are a tactical promotion but many of the sponsors are giving out tickets to the final," he says. "Unless you win you're going to forget who's putting it out there as there are so many companies ­offering tickets."

And there are also obvious pitfalls with forging too close links with the World Cup or a specific player, as Asda has discovered.

Its £3m sponsorship of Wayne Rooney took a slight dive after the player broke a bone in his foot and currently remains a doubt to make the finals. While Rooney's star ­status is likely to ensure that he will remain a powerful marketing tool despite a no-show at the tournament, it does offer food for thought for companies when choosing their marketing tactics.

Gillette's MacLeod, for example, says the company does ensure it has a back-up plan in the event of unforeseen problems.

"There is always a risk associa­ting yourself with an event that is out of your control but, based on past ­successes and who the target market is, it is a logical fit for us. The element of risk is pretty minimal. If England didn't qualify, we were ready with a plan B."

Budweiser's Gorczyca adds: "We are using our links as a bridge for the start of the English Premier League. Even if England doesn't progress as far as we would like, throughout the world fans will find Budweiser has a natural fit with football."

While most companies say that the build up to the tournament is more important than the event ­itself in terms of getting products to the front of consumers' minds - Sugden says he expects all Jaffa Cakes football packets to have been sold out before the tournament even ­begins - some are pinning their hopes on England's success.

Simon Banford, head of marketing at figurine company Corinthian Marketing says that an England victory would be great for sales.

The company sells about two million football figures during a normal year, and this rises to 3.5 million during World Cup years. An England victory would generate even higher sales as the figures ­become potential collector's items.

There is another reason why it is important for England to stay in the tournament for as long as ­possible. He adds: "It matters how well England do. Asda took the bunting down the day England got knocked out of Euro 2004 and that affects sales. Our sales are very much football-related."

The company's fortunes are also very much dependent on who eventually stars in the competition, as it chooses its line-up in January. Injuries to both Owen and Rooney have not been too welcome.

Official sponsor Toshiba may not have its fingers crossed quite so tightly for an England victory.

It is running a promotion targeted at optimistic football fans ­whereby anyone who buys a Toshiba notebook between April 27 and June 8 will receive a 66% refund in the event of an England win.