How Lufthansa scored an own goal with its World Cup advertisement

This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of our Airline Marketing Monthly Report

Airlines have been getting creative with their campaigns for FIFA World Cup: from Icelandair creating a special Team Iceland Stopover to Qatar Airways launching an anthem together with Nicole Scherzinger. One airline which did run into controversy with a World Cup film though is Lufthansa. 

Lufthansa’s ad agency Kolle Rebbe filmed a video called “Wie in Rio” (as in Rio), which showed two German football fans determined to have the same experiences that they did in 2014 in Brazil. 

The ad starts with the fans standing at a German airport looking at the departure board showing a Moscow flight. They then start daydreaming, saying that they want to celebrate the same way as they did in Brazil. However, instead of Brazil, images of Russia start coming into their heads. For example, when they say they want to celebrate in the same way they see the vision of a Russian vodka bar. 

Similarly, when they talk about hitting the beach after each match just like they did in Brazil, the video cuts to a man with a beard catching fish by a river on a grey day. The ad then comes to the punch-line, as it were. The two look at a Lufthansa plane in “Fanhansa” livery and they agree that at the very least they will be flying the same way to the World Cup in 2018 as they did in 2014. 

So far so good, but there is one problem.

The scenes about Russia were partially filmed in Ukraine, which is locked with Russia in a territorial dispute. The resulting social media outcry meant that Lufthansa apologised and pulled the video from its social media channels. (Though, you can still see the video below)

“In the first comments and reactions, we noticed that in this specific case that this video hurt the feelings of some viewers. We deeply regret this and apologize officially for this. That is why Lufthansa had removed the video from all social media platforms already during this weekend.” (NB, Weekend of 3 June)


Let’s get the obvious point out of the way first: “Wie in Rio” shows the need to carefully research everything from locations to actors to the soundtrack to make sure it won’t cause controversy. However, we didn’t include “Wie in Rio” in this Airline Marketing Monthly to make that point.

We included it because the actual creative treatment seems to us to get it right – the location issues aside, we like it. 

In the previous piece, we talked about Qatar Airways “Dancing in the Streets” being perhaps too much of a generic feel-good piece with too much going on. Lufthansa, however, has concentrated on a tighter narrative involving two characters. It is light-hearted and at times funny, it tells a story that fans can relate to and Lufthansa is part and parcel of that story. The message is – these two guys will be having these experiences because of Lufthansa, which will get them to Russia. 

It’s just a shame that an avoidable mistake means this video won’t be aired.

For more details on the importance of cultural sensitivity in airline marketing and how Lufthansa scored an own goal with its world cup advertisement, watch SimpliFlying Live Show episode #295 below.

Did Lufthansa score an own goal with its world cup advertisement? #SimpliLive

Marketing today is about feedback – airlines need to be sensitive. Lufthansa learnt it the hard way with its latest world cup advertisement own goal! #SimpliLiveShow notes:

Posted by SimpliFlying on Wednesday, June 6, 2018

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