Bread or circuses? The 2010 World Cup and South Africa's quest for marketing power

18 Aug 2016

Marketing power relates to the kind of two-level games in which state elites are engaged. Internally marketing power refers to attempts by state elites to shore up political legitimacy, reinforce a sense of national identity and placate those constituencies adversely affected by the growing internationalisation of domestic issue areas. Initiatives such as hosting or sometimes even just bidding for a major sporting event help create a symbolic focus of commonality, enforcing the sense of identity and loyalty to which the state as civil association could more readily lay claim. The process of state transformation towards a competition state and the complex confluence of marketing power in one of the new ?emerging powers? of the developing world is clearly revealed in South Africa's bid and preparations to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The event provided a rare glimpse into the complex trade-offs, contradictions and dilemmas facing state and other elites. We contend that three issues prove decisive as a means of probing the societal reach and impact of the event. First, the prioritisation of state expenditure towards the event over more ?mundane? but essential domestic budgetary items; second, matters of identity and the pervasive quest for marketing power; and third, concerns about the extent and quality of public participation and questions about the degree to which certain aspects of state sovereignty become modified or re-adapted particularly in response to FIFA demands. We conclude by noting the significance of the World Cup as a means of offering a circus rather than the more challenging task of providing bread.