Sport mega-events and nation branding: unique characteristics of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa

18 Jun 2018

Purpose ? Sport mega-events have received much criticism of late. However, there has been increasing awareness of the brand-related benefits from hosting a sport mega-event, with their hosting being a deliberate policy for many nations, most notably among emerging nations. One such nation is South Africa, which explicitly stated its nation branding ambitions through the staging of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Through this single case, this paper aims to identify the unique characteristics of the sport mega-event that were leveraged for benefits of nation branding. Design/methodology/approach ? An interpretivist, qualitative study explored the insights of nation brand stakeholders and experts, elicited using in-depth, semi-structured interviews (n 27) undertaken two to three years after the staging of the event. Findings ? Three characteristics of the 2010 sport mega-event were deemed by stakeholders to be unique in creating nation branding opportunities: the scale of the event that created opportunities for transformational development; the global appeal, connection and attachment of the event; and the symbolic status of the event that was leveraged for internal brand building and public diplomacy. The paper proposes that while sport mega-events provide nation branding opportunities, the extent of these benefits may vary according to the context of the nation brand with lesser-known, troubled or emerging brands seemingly having the most to gain. Originality/value ? While acknowledging the critique of mega-events, this paper highlights a pertinent example of an emerging nation that leveraged the potential of a sport mega-event for nation branding gains. It extends the understanding of sport mega-events and their potential for nation branding.