Yes, that’s what Campaign India reader Prashant Singh discovered when he went to South Africa for the World Cup. Surprised? Read on.
No, I know that this is not 2026 – the year China hopes to bid for the FIFA WC right nor is it April 1st - April fool’s day. I am well aware we are in the fag end of July and that the FIFA World Cup just got over in South Africa on 11th July, 2010 with Ike Cassias lifting the World Cup for the first time for Spain. Yes, this story will explain the headline.
I landed in Johannesburg to be hit by the sound of the vuvuzelas at the airport itself – sort of like the philharmonic orchestra but conducted by a bunch of bees. My dear friend awaited my arrival having travelled 25 long hours from his port of residence Seattle to witness the greatest show on earth. The smile on his face was irreplaceable – one that I don’t think I will see again till 2014 – this despite knowing that he had just proposed to his fiancйe in Hawaii months ago. To his ears, though, the vuvuzelas did seem like Mozart’s perfect symphony inspite of the Seattle-Paris-Lagos-Johannesburg haul he’d been tortured through. If he could, I would! I decided to relax and give into that very sound that had been irritating me whilst I sat in my arm chair back home watching the semis just a few hours ago. The sound of the very same vuvuzelas suddenly made the atmosphere perfect – just right!
South Africa was the melting pot of the world for those thirty days – fans from around the world convened and even better metamorphosed into supporters of other nations as their favourites fell to others. One gentleman I met started off his 25 day route around South Africa as an English supporter since he was after all British, then as a Brazilian fan that yelled for Uruguay but ended up cheering for the Spanish in the finals. The campaign by the FNB – First National Bank of South Africa, one of the many National Supporters (FIFA has partners, sponsors & supporters) of the event, couldn’t have summed it up better - ‘Today this is the greatest country in the world’.
And they were!
This World Cup was about all of Africa, and not just South Africa; SA supported and celebrated Ghana. Roger Millar was still heralded as a hero on the streets of Johannesburg wherever he was spotted. The kicker though for me was that while superficially it was about Africa – Asia’s giant was managing to make its presence felt. The Chinese dragon was raising its head and slashing its tail around every roadside vendor, corner shop, super market, malls and right inside the stadium.
The Chinese football team did not make it to the World Cup this year but the country made its presence felt loud and clear starting pun intended with the the most unforgettable off-field aspect of the World Cup – the vuvuzela.
The list is almost never-ending… the T-shirts, the mascot, scarves or other small commodities sold during the world sports gala, like cell phone accessories, key chains, wigs, and flags and light stick – all made in China. Let’s not forget the very reason the game is named after, the football itself.
Even the controversial South Africa World Cup ball: Jabulani, made in China
In May of 2009, Jiangxi Jiujiang Si Mao Bo Company was authorized as the main production base for the 2010 South Africa World Cup football, and began manufacturing the ‘Jabulani’ South Africa World Cup official ball. Up until May this year, this factory’s over 7000 workers had already completed 12 million competition and commercial official balls.
The South Africa World Cup special little horn "Vuvuzela": Made in China
Ninety percent of the vuvuzelas, the plastic South African trumpet whose loud rasp has become synonymous with the 2010 World Cup, are made in China, the Chinese did it the same way they have done for so many other products: low costs and quick production at factories just outside the southern Chinese city of Ningbo.
With a few dozen staff, just one factory has manufactured more than 20,000 bugles a day and one long 60 centimeter vuvuzela horn costs about Rs 14 to produce, but the retail price in South Africa was as high as Rs 374.
South Africa World Cup mascot Zakumi: Made in China
Zakumi: this year’s FIFA mascot was made in China, rather than in South Africa. Zakumi is a leopard, a common animal found in South Africa, with green hair. His name comes from “ZA” code for South Africa, and “kumi”, a word that means “ten” in various African languages.
There were tens of factories in one province only that were responsible for producing the Mascot, on behalf of the South African Licensee, amidst allegations of “sweatshops” being used by the Chinese.
In addition to the soft toy, the South African tournament organisers and FIFA gave the Shanghai Fashion Plastic Products factory permission to make 2.3 million of the Zakumi trinkets, each of these sold for Ђ35.
The official condom of the South Africa World Cup: Made in China
In the month of February of 2010, the South Africa Health Department began ordering “Choice Condoms” from a Guangxi Guilin latex factory to be an official World Cup product. Just before the kickoff of World Cup 2010, more than 100 million China-made condoms were exported to South Africa.
South Africa World Cup themed scarves & wigs: Made in China
The colorful wigs found on the heads of spectators were exported by a company in Zhejiang province, and the scarves with prints of various cheerleading slogans were produced by a different company in the same Zhejiang province. They have exported close to 600,000+ scarves for the fans in South Africa. With each scarf priced at `70-130, they have already pocketed ` 4 -5 crores of income just from scarves.
The world’s largest small commodities market exports World Cup merchandise
According to one customs statistics, as a result of the World Cup, the monthly exports for local sports equipment have exceeded 10 million USD consecutively over the past half year, with the exports during the 5 previous months this year having increase 110% over the same period last year.
It is not just about the small commodities;
Chinese company provided seats for South Africa World Cup’s 10 stadiums, one company alone in Zhejiang province had provided 50,000 seats for the World Cup.
In addition to the Stadium hardware; Home appliance and IT companies have also entered the South African stadiums. The air conditioners at South Africa World Cup’s main stadium are central air conditioning units from Gree Electric which had won the central air conditioning supplier and management order for the FIFA WC South Africa.
And if this was not enough, to close the loop of China and the World Cup, for the very first time a Chinese company appears in the World Cup Stadium advertising in the sponsor category with the likes of Mahindra Satyam, Castrol, Budweiser, McDonalds etc.
Sponsoring the World Cup might seem an odd proposition for a largely-unheard of Chinese solar manufacturer, particularly one that sells to distributors and developers ‘YingLi’ on the advertising boards. (It had secured, in 20-second bursts, eight minutes of exposure in each of the 64 games on the pitch-side advertising hoardings to reach billions of people worldwide.)
Accustomed to seeing Coca Cola, Adidas, and Visa’s advertisements, YingLi’s appearance aroused much curiosity, not just from the visiting football fans in South Africa but even Chinese football fans couldn’t resist “Baidu-ing” (China’s Google) it, to find out what it is.
As one of the sponsors for this year’s FIFA World Cup, the new energy company YingLi from China was indeed a “stranger” in the eyes of football fans, but just from the first few days of the World Cup, they had become famous, becoming one of the most searched keywords on Baidu and Google during the initial few days of the World Cup.
Yingli Green Energy
The $1.4bn (Ђ1.1bn, Ј923m) company, which listed in New York three years ago, has also partnered with FIFA, football’s world governing body, to provide 20 football centres across Africa with solar systems.
Even though there have been many experts who have pointed out that the main audience for the World Cup is the general audience and the sponsors have always revolved around McDonald’s, Budweiser, Sony, these kinds of consumer brands, but for a brand like Ying Li, whether or not (this association) can bring it sales is still unknown. However, this Chinese service undoubtedly already has a reputation and can be said to have demonstrated the advertising effects of the FIFA World Cup 2010.
In the end to me, the 2010 edition of the FIFA World Cup can be encompassed in just one line, “South Africa World Cup, Made In China”.