As hosts of the 1966 World Cup, England, and particularly the Football Association, gave overseas teams a gracious welcome. The tournament gave rise to an unprecedented level of commercial exploitation, exemplified by the first World Cup mascot; a puckish lion called World Cup Willie who wore a union jack waistcoat, and walked with a comical swagger. Popular and academic histories of the World Cup tend to focus almost wholly on the football played, and the outcome in sporting terms. However, the poster and the commercialization of the tournament are as interesting as the Portugese striker Eusebio being the top scorer with nine goals, followed by Haller of West Germany and Bene of Hungary with five and four goals respectively. Awarded the tournament in 1960, the Football Association lost no time in achieving the 1.6 million ticket sales required to make the occasion a financial success. Firstly, no ground with a capacity below 50,000 spectators would be awarded a World Cup game. Due to regulations that all World Cup matches were to be played on pitches at least 115 yards long and 75 yards wide, high profile stadia close to large urban populations, like Arsenal’s Highbury, could not be selected as there wasn't room to expand the playing surface. Everton’s Goodison Park fared better with the adaptations. Similarly, with television broadcast now standard, the Press box had to accommodate over 40 people and technical changes were made: new cabling at Everton alone cost £10,000. The tournament was hosted across seven venues in Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Middlesborough, Sheffield and Sunderland.
A staff of thirty five began to promote and sell tickets well beforehand to achieve the sellout figures: Final tickets were only available as part of season tickets to help in selling out other matches. There was the question of balancing sales to overseas and domestic supporters. Since British ticket prices were generally lower than those in other countries, this helped to sell to both domestic and overseas consumers. Those in the luxury seats for ten games, including the Final, could purchase them for £25 15shillings, whereas standing tickest for the same events were as cheap as £3 17 shillings and sixpence. But what role did the posters play in selling the tournament?
The 1966 Poster
Posters played a major role in publicizing the World Cup since its inception and, as interest in the event burgeoned in 1966, so did the professionalization of graphic design. In design terms, England appeared to be personified by the intensely nationalistic mascot, World Cup Willie. The mascot was symbolic of the new era of merchandising and, behind the friendly and furry façade, the little lion had a Beatles haircut, so more than ever, youth was targeted by football as consumers. As David Gill has shown, British military regiments and US sports teams had used live animals as adopted mascots since the nineteenth century, but with the innovation of Walt Disney and Warner Brothers of merchandising their cartoon character mascots, in the 1930s, a new marketing trend translated from the entertainment industries to sport (David Gill ‘Sports Mascots: An Analysis of the Factual and Legal History of Character Mascots’ Trademark World 218 pp. 36-9 www.ipworld.com accessed 25 June 2018).
The 1966 World Cup could not have taken place without government support: this reflected Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s modernisation of the British economy with £500,000 of central government funding to improve the seven host venues. Various state-funded communication and transport providers benefitted also, such as the Post Office and British Transport, and private enterprise from airlines to newspapers who had a range of advertising of their own. A range of non-profit charity providers and voluntary clubs also contributed. Because World Cup Willie was a visual representation, visitors who could not speak English were able to see his likeness on temporary signs used by London Transport to get visitors to Wembley and White City stadiums during the tournament, and provided a simple way of highlighting relevant information.
As the FA said at the time:
It was of paramount importance that as much publicity as possible should be obtained with the minimum outlay. The spending of large sums of money which would have been required for a national, or international advertising campaign could never be countenanced. So every possible avenuewas explored to obtain maximum coverage with minimum expenditure. With no newspaper advertising contemplated, attractive posters were an absolute necessity as a substitute to keep the posters in the public eye.
Over 100,000 posters were displayed across venues. As to the design itself, a golden football in the top right hand corner of the design has been kicked by World Cup Willie, who wears a union flag-embossed football strip, on which the words World Cup are prominent. The union flag features again in the official logo which was placed parallel to World Cup Willie on the bottom right. There are many more beautiful World Cup poster designs but this was playful and humorous which is perhaps all the more remarkable given the huge pressure under which the FA and the England national team hosted the tournament.
The promoter of World Cup Willie was Walter Tuckwell and Associates Limited, was at the forefront of the new character merchandising industry with licensed products including James Bond, Noddy, Dr Who and other BBC series. Tuckwell bought the merchandising agency rights from the FA and complained that the emblem was too dull so the FA commissioned his company to design a mascot. Through through the work of Richard Culley and artist Reginald Hoy, World Cup Willie went through a series of design modifications. The principle of having a cartoon mascot was instantly popular amongst football clubs in the 1960s. This also set a tradition that has spread across major tournaments and in professional clubs, becoming a standard means of merchandising and promoting related memorabilia.
There were also more practical ways of branding the tournament as British, such as the Home Office confirming that the FA permission to use the coat of arms on the official emblem of the tournament. Designed by Arthur Bew, a commercial artist, the insignia was not open to a public competition as had been originally discussed. The model of an official logo, a tournament poster and a mascot would remain the key three ways of promoting World Cups until the innovation of ‘Artmarks’ (a stylized version of the trophy) for the Korea-Japan tournament in 2002. The only person to seem absolutely sure that England would win all along was the manager, Alf Ramsey and he was knighted for his efforts in the New Year’s Honours list: hence ‘Arise Sir Alf.’