World Cup Campaigning

The World Cup, which gets underway this week, will dominate headlines for the next four weeks. So, it is natural that those vying for the public’s vote will try to stay relevant by associating themselves with this massive global event. Not a bad strategy. The challenge, of course, is doing so in a way that is authentic and doesn’t pander to the audience you are trying to attract. Unfortunately, Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory’s efforts in this area leave a little to be desired.

In the above video, Tory announces his love for the World Cup and launches a new hashtag, #soccertown, in honour of Toronto – a multicultural city – being a community that loves soccer and where everyone cheers for their favorite team. On its face, the strategy makes sense. Why not go where the fish are, right? Voters care about the World Cup, so it’s important that you do to. Further, why not leverage some of the many conversations the event to get some additional exposure for your campaign. And certainly a hashtag fans can rally around could not be a bad thing.

As a concept, I’m OK with it. But as they say, the devil is in the details. I take issue with the execution on a few points:

      Authenticity: Mr. Tory is certainly enthusiastic, but does not come across a world cup fan. In fact, the two minute video going on and on about the World Cup makes him more like a politician sending greetings than someone you’d want to watch the game with. This is where video actually hurts: the scarf draped over the chinos and button down are a little inauthentic.
      Messaging: This relates to the previous point. Tory goes out of his way to be decided neutral in his messaging. While well-intentioned, he sounds an awful like a politician. An event like this is an opportunity to share a common experience with voters. He would have been better advised to post photos of him cheering on his favorite team – just like everyone other fan is doing.
      Hashtag: We will measure it in the days to come, but I’m guessing there will be little takeup on the #soccertown hashgtag. My question is: why start your own when there are so many others to use? I like the concept, but you have to have a lot of horsepower ready to go to ensure your hashtag is adopted – or risk unnecessary embarrassment.
      Value: What use does all of this have for voters of Toronto? I give credit to his rival Olivia Chow, who at least printed up a World Cup schedule (they lose marks for not having it online, though). At least voters get value out of that. They also missed an opportunity to post a resource on the campaign website, so they could drive traffic there.

I appreciate the effort and I see what the Tory camp was trying to do, but I think the initiative misses the mark. If I were advising Tory, I would suggest making lots of visits to local pubs and places where the game is being shown, sit down and enjoy the game. Maybe have a World Cup party at HQ and post some video.

Social media gives an opportunity to give voters a more well-rounded picture of who these politicians are. is more relatable than cheering for your side in the World Cup?