Beats Headphones Banned At World Cup

Did Beats use marketing tactics to undermine World Cup sponsor Sony?

Beats World Cup

Beats has a promotional video on YouTube featuring World Cup players preparing for the 2014 tournament, with Beats headphones, of course. (Image: Beats)

World Cup athlete’s won’t be hearing much from their Beats headphones, thanks to FIFA. The organization has banned the colorful cans from the World Cup altogether, according to Reuters.

The problem? A conflicting licensing agreement between FIFA and electronics giant Sony.

Through an exclusivity agreement with FIFA, all athletes are allowed to wear only Sony-branded headphones on the field and during media events, locking out any other brand–including Beats–from any form of advertising.

Footballers like Uruguay’s Luis Suárez and Brazil’s Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior have been seen wearing them during the World Cup, prompting Sony to issue the ban.

But if athletes are wearing their headphones of choice off the field instead of off, it may send a message that money can’t buy.

“When fans see World Cup athletes wearing Beats in their downtime, by choice, it has as much impact as seeing them lace their Adidas (boots) or sip a sponsored beverage,” said strategist Ellen Petry Leanse, a former Apple and Google executive, to Reuters. “Maybe more, actually – Beats isn’t a sponsor, so the message is more authentic and credible.”

Beats is no stranger to sending headphones gratis to celebrities and athletes. The brand is practically synonymous with names like Lebron James, Lil’ Wayne, and other music icons.

The company has been known to use somewhat sketchy marketing maneuvers to get its headphones into the public eye. During the London 2012 Olympics, Beats headphones were sent to athletes, even though Panasonic was the Games’ official sponsor. The headphones were banned there as well.

Beats was acquired by Apple this year for a whopping $3 billion, making its cofounder, rapper Dr. Dre, the first rap billionaire. But by banning Beats, Sony and FIFA may have only made the cans even more popular.

On YouTube, Beats even has a short film, “The Game Before The Game,” showing stars like Lebron and Nicki Minaj , as well as various footballers like Neymar, preparing for the 2014 tournament the only way they know how: by jamming out with the iconic cans.