England's draw against Greece at Old Trafford meant more than just a place in next year's World Cup finals. It signalled the start of a multi-million pound merchandising and retailing bonanza. Simon Mowbray reports When David Golden Balls' Beckham singlehandedly prevented a Greek tragedy in the dying seconds of last Saturday's final World Cup qualifying match, it wasn't just England's legion of loyal supporters who started cheering. For, while the skipper's blistering shot into the top left hand corner whipped English soccer fans into a frenzy of celebration, it was likely to have been saluted with equal vigour by retailers and manufacturers the length and breadth of the country. While the boys with the three lions on their shirts became the only home nation to qualify for next summer's tournament, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were all given early baths and their failed campaigns now look likely to cost many parties (retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers included) dear. After all, it's not much fun if you're not even taking part. The disappointment will not be short lived, either, with few events offering bigger rewards for the successful few than the World Cup. TV coverage alone is worth untold millions and the projected TV audience for next year's competition is currently estimated at a staggering 40 billion viewers, even though many of the games will be played at inconvenient viewing hours (mid-morning) for Europe's legions of soccer fans. It is therefore hardly surprising that 15 major partners, including grocery heavyweights Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Gillette, have already splashed out on the right to join world football body FIFA's elite group of official partners' to host the event. Their winner-takes-all deals, struck for undisclosed sums but likely to have run into many millions of whatever currency you care to name, mean all category competitors are excluded from any involvement in the tournament. Attempts by rivals to carry out any direct merchandising spin-offs will also be shown a red card, while those still on the playing field are clearly confident that their involvement with the beautiful game will result in equally pretty sales figures. It's certainly a tried and tested formula. Coca-Cola, for example, has been a sponsor of the competition since 1970. And although the company is so far remaining coy about its licensing plans for next year's tournament, it has already revealed a tie-up with Adidas to produce a new range of merchandised goods. UK spokesman Andrew Coker says: "We are not revealing our plans for the Coke product itself and nothing is likely to happen until spring next year, but there will be substantial activity which will benefit retailers." Budweiser, meanwhile, is far less worried about revealing its team tactics and the brand's spokesmen are already waxing lyrical about both this World Cup and the next one in China, which it has also signed up for. Brand owner Anheuser-Busch plans to make the most of the deal in Britain with a "One World, One Game, One Beer" marketing theme. TV ads, special events promotions, consumer merchandise and in-store promotions have also been decided on and the company is clearly confident that its outlay will reap rewards for both itself and retailers. "The World Cup has helped Budweiser to appeal to football fans in a relevant and exciting manner since it first sponsored the event in 1986," enthuses one company spokesman, being so bold as to add that the brand has its "greatest relevance" by "aiding celebrations, easing tension and drowning sorrows". But putting the rhetoric ­ of which there will undoubtedly be much more in the coming months ­ to one side, the point is really this. An association with the World Cup, barring an unforeseen disaster, is really only likely to have one result - a home win for all the parties involved. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that those who don't have the financial clout or worldwide branding appeal to join FIFA's elite sponsors, or even one of their lesser 175 licensing partners, must miss out. For example, Walkers' long association with football is well charted, with the crisp manufacturer admitting it is likely to use its licensing deal with the Football Association, and therefore the England team, in the run-up to next year's campaign. It's not the only weapon at its disposal, either. Former England striker and BBC presenter Gary Lineker is still on the company's books, while Walkers also has a host of famous footie-themed TV ads up its sleeve. Not least among these is the celebrated one of Paul Gascoigne mimicking his famous tears episode during the 1990 World Cup semi-final in Italy. The first showing of the ad, in which Gazza' blubs over not being able to eat his crisps, was so well received during the 1994 tournament held in the US, that it got repeat runs during Britain's hosting of Euro 96 and the last World Cup in France. Walkers' football sponsorship manager Jonathan Gregory also admits there is likely to be "a lot of product activity" in the run-up to the tournament, following on from special editions run four years ago when salt and vinegar became Salt'n'Lineker', and cheese and onion became Cheese and Owen' after current England marksman Michael Owen. However, manufacturers don't even necessarily have to own a FIFA or FA licence to get a slice of the action, although penalties for breach of copyright are stringently observed. FIFA recorded 841 cases of trademark infringement and ambush' marketing during the last tournament, while snack manufacturer Ginsters is currently embroiled in a row with the FA for using its Three Lions' trademark without permission on special football packs of sandwiches. However, stick to the rules and you could still be onto a winner. Nestlé, for example, has not secured the rights to either an FA or FIFA licence but is still heavily involved in football. Manchester United and Republic of Ireland skipper Roy Keane, whose team could still make it to the World Cup, stars in ads for Kit Kat, while Owen can currently be seen in commercials for the food giant's Sporties cereal. Nestlé is reluctant to reveal its World Cup plans for either player and refuses to reveal whether Messrs Keane and Owen will still be on its books come next June. But it's more than reasonable to assume they would like them to be. After all, Owen alone could be the key to untold riches for the company, particularly following his recent historic hat-trick against Germany. Beckham aside, he is also the most likely candidate to fire England to their first World Cup success since 1966. But while companies splash out on licences, new products and expensive advertising campaigns, how is all this likely to add up for retailers? Trevor Dixon, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, says: "The passion for football in this country is so huge that retailers would be ill-advised not to jump on the bandwagon as the competition has more pulling power than any other sporting event, including the Olympics. "But there are issues to consider. For example, special offers such as a free football with cans of beer can work well for retailers but a chocolate bar just sporting a World Cup logo is unlikely to have much effect. Likewise, competitions will have to catch consumers' imaginations if they are to succeed. The real opportunity for retailers will lie in merchandising for the impulse market and will depend on how long England can stay in the competition." Keith Webb, trading director of Spar UK, agrees but claims that the other home nations' failure to qualify is almost certain to have a more serious effect on the World Cup market than many realise. "We have around 2,600 stores throughout Britain and 1,300 of them are in England," says Webb. "That means the World Cup will virtually be a non-event for half of our estate." Webb's no-nonsense view is well-founded as it comes from bitter experience following last year's European championships in France where England was the only home nation involved and went out after the first stage of the competition. "It was a disaster," says Webb, "although I would not say we got caught out, rather that our aspirations were not fulfilled. We are certainly hoping for a better performance from England this time as success on the field could sustain higher sales in many areas for retailers right through the tournament." As The Grocer went to press, England were being quoted at 7-1 to win the World Cup. If only­ {{FEATURES }}