World Cup Identity

The first official World Cup logo was brought into being in 1954, by the hosts for that year, Switzerland.

November 10, 2020

The Right Brand

The quadrennial FIFA World Cup has been played in 21 tournaments over the last 90 years. For the first 70 years, the tournament lacked a specific identity, especially in the emblem that represented the games. Though, in their interpretation of the brand, each host country managed to stamp their mark on football history.

At the beginning of the new century, FIFA took steps to make the games more marketable, more recognisable and distinctive in the industry. One of those steps was to create the official, copyrighted FIFA World Cup trophy-style emblem we have today. Creating an official identity, using the image of the most sought after prize in the world, has helped to make the tournament the most recognised event on the planet.

For the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has taken that iconic brand and reimagined it to ensure that their World Cup bears the hallmarks of their nation and region, and goes down in history as one of the most unique.

Copyrights and/or trademarks of any image used belong to their respective owners.

Branding is an important aspect of organising any event, especially one as loved as the FIFA Football World Cup.

An event brand is designed to capture your attention and imagination, to help you create a connection with the event and its objectives, and to build excitement towards the occasion. A well-branded event will not only resonate with you, the audience, capturing the essence of the event and providing a mental picture of what you can expect, but will also be representative of the host/organisers. In the case of a sporting event such as the football World Cup, the brand will showcase football and the event, but also the host country - who they are and what they stand for.

The FIFA Brand

The FIFA Football World Cup is the sporting event for millions of football fans around the world. Every four years supporters live and breathe football for at least one month during the tournament; many more revel in the build-up to the games months (if not years) in advance.

Tapping into that fervour is the event branding market. Football World Cup branding is integral to every tournament. Branding creates a memorable identity for the tournament and the host nation. Ask any fan, the world over, and they will be able to identify the World Cup year and the host country from the branding alone, no matter how obscure. Branding helps to create a sense of anticipation, enticing fans to join the excitement and optimism around the event. It draws fans to get closer to the games, allowing them to identify with the event, their teams, and to show their support and loyalty through branded merchandise. Ask anyone who owns their team football shirt!

If nothing else, branding generates conversation - in the build-up to each World Cup, fans eagerly await the release of the tournament emblem, the mascot, the marketing slogans. And, when they are published, amidst much hype, the meaning, design, creativeness and ingenuity are discussed and reviewed at length.

According to FIFA, the official look and feel of each World Cup tournament (the emblem, slogan, mascot, posters, etc.), is particularly important in creating a distinct event identity and allowing each to have a personalized feel based on the country in which they are held. Indeed, who can forget the branding for Italia ‘90 and the implied 3D football in the colours of the Italian flag, or South Korea/Japan’s 2002 branding, the first emblem depicting the twisted silhouette shape of the FIFA trophy, or Germany’s 2006 ‘Celebrating Faces’ logo?

Not only does a strong brand strategy define the nature of the event and the host country, key brand assets, such as the official World Cup emblem, are universally known, and the value they represent is enormous. The revenue generated through the brand is something which allows FIFA to continue its work to create opportunities to develop the game, and associated its legacy through social development, across the globe.

It could be said that branding, and our buy-in to that brand, is essential in sustaining World Cup football and its future for every one of us.

Key Brand Assets

Some of the key brand assets created for World Cup tournaments are the emblem (or logo), the slogan (or catchphrase) and the mascot. Each plays a very specific role in representing the tournament and the host country, and in connecting with the audience.


The meaning behind the word ‘emblem’ is an image, or an object, that represents an idea, a concept, an individual or group of individuals. Historically, emblems have been used to identify individuals, families, organisations, businesses, places, political parties, affiliations, etc. An emblem can be as simple as the apple design for Apple computers, or the five interlaced, coloured rings used for the Olympics. Or it can be as detailed as a family crest. Some are synonymous with a person, product or idea for centuries and some only fleetingly. And, some evolve over the years.

In football, specific images have been used to identify teams throughout its long history. The images chosen for each team usually represented the history of the town for which they played, the local industry, specific local attractions or landmarks, and so on. They were used not only for identification, but to convey the character of the team, and to provoke a sense of belonging in fans.

The FIFA Football World Cup logo has evolved since its creation. Since the 1930s, World Cup tournaments have been advertised by specific images for each host country. However, the first four tournaments used poster images rather than emblems, and the official FIFA logo did not appear until 1954 when it was used by Switzerland. Then, the logo was circular and designed to depict the shape of a football and the world combined. Up until 2002, host countries used the football image, and sometimes the combined globe/ball combination in their World Cup branding. Though, they had almost complete autonomy over their visual image for the tournament. By the 2002 games, FIFA had designed the image we know and love today - the stylised silhouette of the tournament trophy, held up by a man - and something with which to create a globally recognised and marketable brand. Host countries are now required by FIFA to use the image in their branding, though it may be reimagined to represent their nation.

Today, the World Cup logo, especially for football fans, not only represents the most popular sport and tournament in the world, but a game that is for everyone - spectator or player, rich or poor, male or female, young or old. It is instantly recognisable and is used and worn with pride.


Slogans are short phrases or mottos designed to capture people’s attention and attract them to an idea, a cause, a product, a person or group. They are usually very catchy and very memorable. They can create an image, convey a message or give an insight into the brand they represent. The idea behind slogans is to convince the audience to buy-in to a brand. They can be funny, serious, inspiring, a clever play on words, but above all provide a link to the brand they advertise.

In football, slogans are used to represent the moral values or the spirit of the team, their sporting prowess or the goals of the club. They are designed to inspire and unite fans behind a common idea. Barcelona FC sport the slogan ‘Més Que Un Club’, which translated means, ‘More Than A Club’ - a nice nod to the fans that support them. While Lisbon FC brandishes the slogan ‘Esforço, Dedicação, Devoção, Glória’, which embodies their pursuit of victory and when translated means, ‘Effort, Dedication, Devotion, Glory.

For the FIFA World Cup tournament, the host nations slogan usually reflects the beliefs and dreams of the nation, and/or the ethos of the tournament. In 1986, Mexico gave us the slogan ‘El Mundo Unido Por Un Balón’, meaning ‘The World United by Ball’, which symbolises FIFA’s desire to unify people through football. In 2010, South Africa’s slogan ‘Ke Nako’ meaning, ‘Its Time’, celebrated the continent's first time hosting the World Cup. German hosts, in 2006, invited us to their welcoming and friendly nation with the slogan ‘Die Welt Zu Gast Bei Freunden’ - ‘A Time to Make Friends’.


Mascots are a playful way of representing a brand. Usually in the form of an animal, a person or an object, they can add to a brand’s identity, especially if they are memorable and have close connections to the person, group or thing they signify. People often associate mascots with luck, particularly in team sports.

Team mascots generally reflect the team nickname, a team trait or a characteristic of the town or region from which the team hails. Designed to resonate with, and entertain the audience, mascots also provide a marketable product that brings in a valuable revenue stream through merchandising.

The FIFA World Cup has had a multitude of mascots from lions, a leopard, a wolf and an armadillo, to a jalapeno pepper and an orange. However, the tradition of having a mascot associated with the games only began in 1966 when hosts of the World Cup, England introduced World Cup Willie - a cartoon lion.

Brand 2022

Qatar’s branding for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is simple, playful and draws inspiration from their traditions and culture. The brand is designed to inspire a sense of unity, inclusion and hospitality, and tells us to ‘Expect Amazing’. Each of the brand assets has been carefully crafted to support FIFA’s brand objectives, to champion football and to represent the many layers of Qatari life, past and present.

The 2022 World Cup emblem was released on the 3rd September 2019, across the world in spectacular style. It uses the FIFA trophy silhouette and symbolises, not only the great game of football but many facets of the country and its people. The ‘Expect Amazing’ slogan has been with us from the start of the bid for the 2022 World Cup, though, cleverly the brand has evolved during the preparations and build-up to the games to 'Delivering Amazing'. And, already, we can see that Qatar is delivering on its brand promise with its ‘amazing’ stadiums, fan zones, infrastructure and more. The Mascot has yet to be revealed, which in itself skillfully keeps us guessing and creates a sense of anticipation.

So, the 2022 World Cup brand is emerging, evolving and creating the desired hype. It ticks all of the event branding boxes, especially those required by FIFA. Post-2022, will the brand become synonymous with Qatar and their ‘amazing’ World Cup? We certainly think so.

To find out more about each brand asset for 2022, its development, its meaning and style, read our article, The Qatari World Cup Brand.

Nations all over the globe have been using branding to encapsulate their country’s identity from time immemorial. National flags, emblems and slogans, and even mascots to some degree have been used across the centuries to identify and to evoke national pride. Read our Qatari National Identity article to find out more about the country’s national flag, emblem and mascots.

Copyrights and/or trademarks of any image used belong to their respective owners.

Published: January 11, 2020
Last updated: November 10, 2020
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