The World Cup -- the victory that keeps giving

The twentieth Coupe du Monde has barely just finished, but the time for assessing its value has already begun for the tournament's sponsors and information technology partners. And unlike during World Cup itself, more than one player will win in the event's online victory.

"It hasn't really hit us yet." Four days after the historic event, Zinédine Zidane, hero of the World Cup final, was still coming to grips with the incredible sports performance that he and the entire French team delivered in the final game -- pushing back the four-time world-champion Brazilian team was the most prestigious proof anyone could hope for in today's soccer world. Three to zero. It's a score that propels this year's tournament into the realm of the century's most notable final matches.

But the Coupe du Monde will remain equally historic for another reason. It was the first to be so strongly used by information technology companies.

Just after the tournament, it is still difficult and the grasp the number of "by-products" for those that decided to take the sponsorship plunge. But Hewlett-Packard, Sybase, Canon, Electronic Data Systems, France Telecom SA and their partners are particularly satisfied because, according to the general opinion, the results are more than just positive.

"This Coupe du Monde is a total success," summarised Vincent Piarou, one of HP's organisers for the Coupe du Monde effort, without reserve.

"The IT system that we put into place perfectly fulfilled the objectives that we set with the Comité Français d'Organisation (or CFO, France's World Cup organisation committee)." The same assessment was given by the second official supplier to the CFO, Sybase.

"We have succeeded in putting in place a true information system for our clients," said Philippe Adam, marketing a communications director for the software publisher. "The objectives have largely been exceeded. For this, the Coupe du Monde is an excellent window through which to show off our technology."

Heading off the banner success is the number of visits on the official site, France98. And indeed, the record established this year at the Olympic games in Japan have largely been exceeded: more than 2 billion connections were registered during the 34 days of soccer competition.

"By the time of the semi-finals, we obtained a peak of 73 million hits in one single day," emphasised Piarou. "For the final, the record will certainly be better. According to our statistics, close to 50 per cent of the connections come from the US, while the rest came from Europe and Asia."

In addition to being able to put on a technical performance during the World Cup, the IT companies also gained a chance to win the communications and marketing game. In total, more than 50,000 seats were distributed by official partners and IT sponsors to clients, potential clients, partners, journalists and so forth. "For our part, we have delivered about 8,000 invitations," confided Piarou.

"Canon has been a partner of FIFA (the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, an international football organisation) for 20 years," explained François de La Rue du Can, a marketing director at Canon France. "The Coupe du Monde is an excellent tool of communication."

And now it's time for the 'après' Coupe du Monde activities. For the tournament's IT partners, the current match will, without a doubt, long outlive this year's global competition. Aware of the stakes, each vendor is refining its strategy.

"We are going to carry out a study on brand recognition to find out the impact of the tournament," said HP's Piarou. "We will also look at the evolution of sales and compare them with the levels from before the World Cup, in order to know if France98 was a sales booster or not."

For its part, Sybase is currently considering which strategy to adopt in the coming weeks.

"The success of the Coupe du Monde site invites us to communicate beyond the event," Adam explained. "The level of recognition we attained is considerable. It would be a shame to not capitalise on this performance."

More information about the Coupe du Monde can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.france98.com/. Information about FIFA can be found on the Web at http://www.fifa.com/.

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