Whopper of a bad World Cup promotion for Burger King

Many of us are getting excited about the FIFA World Cup™… but for those in the marketing department at Burger King’s Russian division, the excitement of their 5-0 opening game win against Saudi Arabia definitely went to their head. Because five days later they announced a promotion of incredibly poor-taste…

The burger chain launched a promotion on VK – a Russian social network – offering women a lifetime supply of Whoppers and 3 million Russian roubles… if they conceive a child with a player competing in the World Cup.


Burger King World Cup pregnancy promotion | Poor Promotion | Bad Marketing


The post even went as far as to suggest that women who did so would pass the best genes onto their children and help create a successful Russian team for the future.

As expected, there was an immediate backlash to the promotion – both online and through condemnation from media outlets all over the world – and the campaign was pulled in a matter of hours.

Posting on VK again, Burger King Russia apologised, saying (through the help of Google translate):

“We apologize for the statement we made. It turned out to be too insulting.
We thank you for the feedback and hasten to inform you that we have already removed all materials related to the application.”

What does good look like?

It can’t be a surprise to many that the offer was criticised for being sexist and demeaning. And it certainly is to our Western sensibilities… but this promotion comes after a Russian MP encouraged local women to have sex with foreign football fans during the tournament.

Mikhail Degtyaryov allegedly told women they should ‘make babies with visiting fans as their children would be proud when they grow up’.

In a country where senior leaders speak in this way, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when a company creates a promotion along the same lines.

Both Burger King and FIFA are global brands, however, and they should have considered that this would garner (the wrong kind of) attention.

It seems obvious advice, but whichever country your campaign is for, avoid campaigns that are sexist, demeaning and crude – towards anybody.


Chris Rogers

I curate stories of #badmarketing so marketing professionals and business owners like you can learn from the mistakes of others - and produce better marketing that’s right first time. Bad Marketing also aims to be essential reading for marketers, academics & students – and anyone interested in the challenges of marketing.