The World Cup is possibly the one current event that manages to unite not just a country, but the entire world. There’s just something about the Beautiful Game that fosters a feeling of brotherhood among people who may want to have nothing to do with each other on regular days.

And with billions tuning into the live broadcasts, the World Cup also represents a golden opportunity for brands to debut a product, send a message or simply bask in the reflected glow of an event celebrating the pinnacle of human athletic achievement.

So its surprising to see a brand like McDonald’s rehash its campaign from the 2016 Olympics in Malaysia. Re-releasing its Rio burger, all communications are samba-centric and heavy on Brazilian flavours. While Brazil’s team is a typical favourite to win the Cup (having won 5 times already), its still a remarkably lack-luster and irrelevant sort of communications, given that the World Cup is held in Russia this year.

Wonda coffee has also put big bucks behind a South American themed product and campaign. The brand is introducing three new specially created coffees made from the beans of three South American nations (Peru, Colombia and Argentina), with all the supporting bells and whistles. Again, no mention of Russia. Perhaps for Wonda, the timing of the product release plus the South American association with football provided a solid enough link.

Internationally, it is interesting to note that the location of the World Cup this year may have caused some brands to advertise with caution for fear of being associated too closely with FIFA as well as the host nation. FIFA has been mired in accusations of corruption, bribery and even slavery. Russia has been in the news for controversial issues like LGBT rights, meddling in the US elections, annexing Crimea and sports doping in the Sochi Winter Olympics, so most ads are in fact downplaying the Russian connection, preferring to focus on the preparation for football and what happens on the pitch.

Something like this from Adidas is a clear example of brands glorifying the game over the locale:

However, much worse than irrelevant campaigns are the clearly tasteless ones.

MasterCard’s Goals for Meals campaign promised that with every goal scored by their key influencers Messi and Neymar Jr, they would donate 10,000 meals to hungry children. Is it not conceivable that a brand worth millions with key influencers paid millions should be able to find a more humane mechanism to feed the hungry? The campaign was withdrawn after public outcry.

Burger King in Russia hedged their bets on a real loser as well, with a promo promising Russian women a lifetime of free sandwiches and a $47,000 cash prize if they get pregnant with the child of a World Cup Soccer player. They tried to layer it with a patriotic flavor, asking girls to get the best football genes to ensure the success of the future Russian national football team. They have since apologized for creating the promotion.

Although this World Cup may have been disheartening in the ad space, lets not end on a low note. Here’s a truly beautiful example of World Cup advertising from Coca-Cola:

What is your brand doing to celebrate the World Cup?

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How would your brand participate in the golden age of the geek?

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