As football fans count the days until the World Cup, the industry is rubbing its hands in glee. Nick Hughes looks at the brands hoping to capitalise

What's your most memorable World Cup moment? Platt's last-gasp volley against Belgium in 1990? Owen's dash through the Argentine defence in '98? Or Carling's Love Football ad of 2006, where an impromptu game of street football breaks out between hundreds of people?

World Cup memories don't have to be confined to events on the pitch and in South Africa this summer, industry players will have a chance not only to enter World Cup marketing folklore, but to claim the ultimate prize the pot of gold at the end.

To put into context just how big a marketing opportunity the World Cup represents, at the 2006 tournament FIFA raised 1.9bn in marketing revenue and 700m in sponsorship from official partners alone. This time around, Carlsberg's £18m activity represents 60% of its marketing budget for the whole of 2010, while Nestlé claims the £10m media support package for its Kit Kat campaign is the largest spend for a confectionery consumer promotion ever.

With such high stakes in play, the pressure to deliver a successful strategy is intense. A strong marketing campaign can add millions to the top line and generate goodwill that lasts long after the tournament has ended. A dud performance, on the other hand, can usher in a winter of obscurity and discontent.

Pick any fmcg category you care to think of and there will almost certainly be football-themed activity this summer. New product development, limited editions, on-pack promotions, competitions, guerrilla marketing, mobile phone apps; they're all part of the World Cup mix. But success in South Africa is not just a question of who can throw the most money at a campaign; there are some integral rules that must be observed.

Ask any brand expert what makes the most effective football campaign and one word crops up more than any other. Credibility.

"The big thing is to have an intrinsic link with football," says The Brand Union's executive creative director Glenn Tutssel. "Although there are lots of ancillary businesses around football, if you've got a close link to it then you've got a much stronger brand marriage."

He cites sportswear makers such as Nike and Adidas as brands that have a "perfect fit" with major sporting events. But although it's tougher for food and drink brands to make a credible connection with football, there are examples of brands that compete successfully.

"Coke has always been very good at doing stuff on-can and Carling has forged a good link with football events," Tutssel says. Oh, and the ads are rather good too.

Coca-Cola is an official partner of the South Africa World Cup and Budweiser and McDonald's are official sponsors. This allows them to use the tournament logo in all their merchandising and marketing activities. As part of this year's campaign, Coca-Cola Enterprises staged a Trophy Tour in London, giving hundreds of fans the opportunity to have their picture taken with the World Cup.

The company is also running a What's Your Celebration campaign starring World Cup legend Roger Milla, famous for his corner flag shuffle in Italia 90. Fans will be able to vote for their favourite celebration from the tournament and upload videos of their own celebrations to the Coke website to be edited into a continuous loop that will run throughout the tournament.

It's this kind of theatre and sense of interaction that experts say will define the best campaigns around South Africa 2010. "It's about inclusiveness," says Tutssel. "It's about making people feel part of the energy of the tournament without actually going."

This summer's tournament is expected to be the World Cup where social media comes into its own. And it's not just the official sponsors that will get in on the act. Take the example of Dairy Crest's Frijj brand.

Consumers who visit the brand's website can hold their bottle of Frijj up to their webcam to see a sexy Swamp Soccerette cheerleader appearing to climb out of the bottle and dance for them, thanks to 'augmented reality' technology. This type of creative marketing will be a vital weapon for brands that face severe restrictions on how they can promote around the World Cup.

FIFA is notoriously ruthless in protecting its sponsors' rights and brands not involved as sponsors or partners will not be able to make any direct link to the tournament in any of their marketing activity. Dutch fans who arrived for their team's first-round clash with Ivory Coast in 2006 wearing Lederhosen featuring the logo of Dutch brewery Bavaria were forced to remove their pants because rival beer brand Budweiser had paid millions of pounds for the title of Official Beer of Germany 2006.

"It will be difficult for brands to engage in guerilla marketing techniques without crossing the line with the FIFA rights," warns David Bailey, managing director of marketing agency Method Two. As a result, campaigns such as Nestlé's Kit Kat Cross Your Fingers and McCoy's Are You A Real Fan? will have to communicate a generic football message rather than explicitly referencing the World Cup.

Nevertheless, UBUK commercial manager Nick Stuart believes the McCoy's brand has sufficient consumer fit and credibility to make some big wins with its campaign, which gives consumers the chance to win football trips around the world. "We've got a brand in McCoy's that is a natural fit with the sporting occasion," he says. "McCoy's are a man's crisp. There's a direct link to football."

Stuart points out that in 2006, sales of savoury snacks rose 34% in the five weeks of the World Cup in Germany and he expects an even greater spike for McCoy's in 2010.

Tutssel warns that consumers will see through brands that try to "piggyback on the success of football".

But while breakfast cereal, for example, might seem a dubious fit with the a football tournament, Kellogg's marketing and promotions controller David Walker believes its on-pack promotion, which will give consumers the chance to redeem points for football-related prizes and indeed some non-football related prizes for non-fans will prove a hit.

"Yes, cereal is a breakfast food, but we know our foods are eaten at different parts of the day. This for us is an everyday opportunity; it gets consumer engagement. We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think it was relevant."

And Nestlé trade communications manager Graham Walker believes even a brand that engages in simple, money-based promotional activity around the World Cup are likely to do well. "The most motivating mechanic is cash," he says.

The other option, of course, is to endorse a team. Mars, Lucozade and Carlsberg are among the squad of brands officially supporting Team England. In a bid to capitalise on the unique nationalistic fervour generated by a World Cup, Mars is repackaging its Mars bars in a white wrapper complete with a red St George's Cross this spring. Mars trade communications manager Bep Sandhu describes it as "a really bold move" for the brand.

The risk with sponsorship of a team is that success is inextricably linked to on-pitch performance. All the planning in the world cannot compensate for a miserable first-round exit. "What's unstickable is who's going to win," says Tutssel. "Campaigns are inextricably linked to how countries perform. The clever marketers will have a campaign worked out whatever way the result goes. But the money is on the winner, that's big bucks and all the brands then associated with the winning team, everything from sports kits to food, soft drinks to beers, will gain market share."

Sandhu points out that the Believe campaign in 2006 delivered a 7.4% sales uplift, while 2008's Mars Balls Get People Playing generated a 10.9% increase in sales despite England's absence from Euro 2008. This year's campaign will be "bigger and better" than previous ones, she adds.

But should England win, the goodwill felt towards Mars and other sponsors will be even greater, and the halo effect will remain long after the action finishes, says Tutssel. "Goodwill is really difficult to measure, but certainly if you're part of a winning team you're going to be into quite a few months of celebration and feel-good factor about the brand's association with the winning team."

Fingers crossed then that England can put an end to their 44-year wait for a second major trophy in South Africa. If Rio Ferdinand does end up lifting the World Cuptrophy on 11 July, it won't just be football fans dancing in the streets.

In recognition that there's more to life than football, Kellogg's Feast of Football offers non-footie prizes too. On-pack codes on Cornflakes, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and Frosties can win World Cup ringtones, 5-a-side pitches, replica shirts, soccer lessons and training equipment as well as spa treatments and gym subscriptions. 

Coca-Cola Enterprises kicked off its FIFA World Cup Trophy tour in Zurich on 21 September. In England, it gave Asda shoppers the chance to win Golden Tickets to the London leg. It also ran a daily draw throughout February on its Powerade brand, allowing consumers to win one of 100 training sessions in South Africa.

Mars' £12m Work Rest Play for England campaign kicked off last month with an advert featuring football legends taking a trip down memory lane. But the coup de grace will come next month when Mars bars are repackaged to feature a white background and red cross in the style of the St George's flag.

Kit Kat
Nestlé is billing the £10m media support for its Kit Kat Cross Your Fingers campaign as the largest spend for a confectionery consumer promotion ever. From 12 April, promotional packs will give consumers the chance to win £1,000 every day between 3 May and 11 July. A TV campaign will kick off on 26 April.

Chip specialist McCain is cashing in on World Cup fever with the launch of McCain Footballs. The frozen mashed potato balls are targeted at older children. Head of customer marketing Alan Castle said the footballs would bridge the gap between the existing McCain Smiles and more adult-oriented products such as Wedges.

McCoy's 'Are you a real fan?' campaign offers the chance to win one of 10 all-expenses-paid football trips around the world, plus football survival kits containing an inflatable chair, a snack bowl and a beer cooler. UB is also launching two limited edition McCoy's flavours Chicken Winger and Sausage Striker.

Face off:the marketing armband passes from beckham to rooney

The perils associated with corporate sponsorship were brought into sharp focus this month when David Beckham's ruptured Achilles put paid to his World Cup hopes.

Beckham's partners including Adidas, Armani, Motorola and Sharpie will be left to rue the absence of their ambassador from the biggest sporting event on the planet.

On the other side of the coin, should Wayne Rooney take the tournament by storm as many predict, his corporate partners Nike, Nokia, Ford and Coca-Cola will be licking their lips at the prospect of his soaring global marketability.