FNC
Rebecca Gomez
Walk along New York City streets these days and you'll see blackboard signs in front of a lot of bars, restaurants and pubs announcing, "World Cup games shown here." I haven't seen the places packed, nor have I heard of lots of people throwing World Cup parties like they do Super Bowl parties. But I am hearing more people talk about the world soccer tournament. "Mexico beat Iran." Or "I can't believe Brazil is behind Croatia." Or "Have you seen that player who spins the ball on his head as he runs?" Stuff like that.

Even though Americans have never been big fans of the World Cup, American businesses have — and for good reason. If you think the $2.5 million price tag for a 30-second ad during the 2006 Super Bowl is stunning, you haven't seen anything yet. Spending on World Cup advertising and marketing dwarfs that of the Super Bowl by far. Some predict companies will spend more than $1 billion on World Cup advertising alone. Add in millions of dollars more for sponsoring the tournament, marketing company goods, and wining and dining clients (the so-called hospitality part of the game), and American businesses end up shelling out a lot more on the World Cup than the Super Bowl.

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser beer, is a prime example, as it spends more on the World Cup than the Super Bowl. Granted, one competition is a month-long event, and the other just one night. Nike is spending more than $100 million on World Cup promotions, pushing its sneakers and gear to the vast global audience. It may be worth every cent. It's been estimated that 353 million people around the globe watched each match of the 2002 World Cup. This time around, an estimated 32 billion, yes billion, people will watch the month-long 2006 World Cup event.

The Super Bowl numbers, though always making U.S. television history, are paltry by comparison. The most recent Super Bowl, between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers, was the second-most-watched show in American T.V. history, with an estimated 141.4 million U.S. viewers. With the World Cup, American businesses have a unique opportunity to grab a global audience, one of all ages and all economic levels. Plus, soccer is popular in many countries that are rapidly growing economically; their consumers gaining new spending power. Once they earn more money, they're more likely to buy Nike shoes, drink Coca-Cola and maybe even get an American Express credit card.

The World Cup is a golden opportunity to build brand awareness abroad. So even if you don't like soccer, at least now you can appreciate how important the World Cup is, both financially and fanatically. Just think of it as the Super Bowl — for the rest of the world.