With the FIFA World Cup underway in Brazil, our soft drinks columnist Richard Corbett investigates if the tournament historically offers a sales bounce to CSD producers in Western Europe. He also questions whether future tie-ups could be under threat from the game's increasingly toxic-looking governing body, FIFA  

Once every four years, nations from across the globe go head to head in pursuit of the FIFA World Cup and that time is once again upon us. In terms of viewers, the tournament is watched by more people than the Olympics and it is reported that a ninth of the world's population watched the 2006 final. 

As such, the sheer scale of the event represents a major opportunity for beverage companies. And, as you would expect, considerable investment is made to ensure viewers are drinking the right brand.

At the forefront of the marketing spend are the big brewers. This is not surprising because drinking beer and watching football go together like juice and breakfast. The tournament generates a sizeable spike in beer sales in June and early July. In the UK, during a previous tournament, every round that England qualified for was reportedly worth an extra nine million pints to the brewing industry. Will they be a few million pints short this year? 

But not everyone is drinking beer.

The month-long period also provides soft drinks suppliers a chance to showcase their wares.  As you would expect, the Coca-Cola Company has built up a close affiliation with the tournament. It is not a cheap relationship to maintain and being one of FIFA’s official partners is said to cost anywhere between US$25m and $50m each year.

The corporate objectives of the affiliation are defined by more than just sales volume. But I decided to use beverage researcher’s Canadean’s database to test the hypothesis that the FIFA World Cup triggers a notable increase in soft drink volumes.

In theory, the four weeks of the tournament should be like a prolonged holiday period, particularly in countries who have qualified. Even in other markets who have not, there should be some spike. 

I focussed on 16 of Western Europe's markets and the CSD segment over the last three tournaments - held in South Korea and Japan in 2002, Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010. Although the end of the event does fall into the third quarter, most of the uplift should fall into quarter two, so I have compared the consumption performance during quarter two in the year prior to the competition and the year after the contest.

I drilled down specifically into the carbonates category because the segment probably has the most to gain. 

The kick-off times in Japan and South Korea meant that West Europeans watched games in the daytime. This should have been a real fillip for the soft drinks sector, but carbonates sales could only edge up by less than 1% on the previous year. West European sales of carbonates then actually accelerated a year later in 2003. However, this was likely due to hot weather in important European markets.

For this reason, I will give the 2002 World Cup the benefit of the doubt and turn my attention to Germany in 2006 when the sporting spectacular was staged at the heart of the region. The results in the German World Cup are more encouraging, with a 2.5% year-on-year rise in carbonates sales on quarter two, while the growth rate slowed to 1.5% the following year.

The winner and the runner up were both from Western Europe, while the third placed team were the hosts Germany. This will have helped but you could definitely put together a case that the consumption results were given a boost by the tournament. The World Cup in South Africa however provides not a trace of evidence. In fact the results suggest the opposite.

Carbonates sales in West Europe actually fell during the quarter on the same period in 2009 and then increased the year after in 2011.

From these results, it would be fair to conclude that Canadean’s numbers demonstrate only limited evidence of a ‘World Cup effect’ on soft drink demand. It seems that the World Cup is not that much of a bonus for soft drinks firms. Any big marketing spend may well encourage your brand to be drunk ahead of others and will give the brand a feel good factor, but the volume spoils are not as pronounced as might have been thought.

Of course, Coca-­Cola is right to justify such a large outlay because it reinforces its status as the world’s leading soft drinks player and its own results will no doubt be lifted.

However, we may be entering an interesting phase when an association with FIFA is becoming worryingly toxic. Behind all of the razzmatazz, some of the Brazilian public do not seem to be as enthused with the cost of putting on the show. And, if Brazil are knocked out early on, more unrest could well emerge. 

Meanwhile, whether there is any truth in the corruption allegations over the winning Qatar bid or not, they are damaging FIFA's integrity - and this could dilute the value of any future partnerships.