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Footballer Marcel Desailly: TV viewers would rather watch Olympics than World Cup

Marcel Desailly in Cannes today

Marcel Desailly in Cannes today; picture: Twitter

French World Cup winning footballer Marcel Desailly said today that the Olympics has the edge over the FIFA World Cup in media value because of the latter’s diversity of sports and core brand value of “respect”.

Speaking at a Cannes Lions session hosted by Visa in the South of France, the former Chelsea defender said that while “80 per cent” of people prefer football to the Olympics Games, if both sports were on TV at the same time, most would choose to watch the Olympics.

“I think that 80 per cent of people prefer football [to the Olympics]. But if you put the World Cup and the Olympics on at the same time, more people will watch the Olympics because of the diversity of sports and the respect that the Games stands for.”

Desailly, who was sent off during the 1998 World Cup Final which France went on to win, was sharing a panel with US Olympic gold medal winning freestyle skier David Wise and Visa CMO Kevin Burke.

The Frenchman said that footballers needed to be “educated” about how to work better with sponsors and brands.

“In my sport there is a need for footballers to be better educated about the role sponsors play [in football],” he said. “They [sponsors] are part of the package.”

“If players make themselves more available to brands, it will allow brands to deliver key messages about themselves and about the sport too,” he said.

“Now that I’ve retired, I have a better understanding of the role sponsors play.”

However, David Wise argued that companies needed to work harder to find athletes that are the right fit for their brands.

“Sometimes the brand will say that you have to fit its values no matter what – that can be frustrating. It doesn’t really work when a brand takes that attitude,” he said.

“The best way for brands to engage with athletes is for them to get to know you first,” he said, alluding to a Visa commercial he was in that referred to him becoming a young father.

The session finished with a question for Desailly about who he thought would win the World Cup. On a panel that included Marcello Serpa, chairman and chief creative officer of Brazilian agency Almap BBDO, the footballer tipped Argentina.

“Of course I want France to win, but I think Argentina will win it. Statistically a South American team usually wins,” he said.

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