By Bill Wilson
Business Reporter, BBC News
Rooney and the World Cup trophy was a dream team for Coca-Cola
Football fans around the globe may be under the impression that Italy was the sole winner of this summer's World Cup in Germany.
But in the world of corporate sponsorship, how brands do off the field of play is just as important as the actions of a Cannavaro or Zidane, especially as it is sponsor money that is often central to the staging of the event.
So step forward Coca-Cola which, according to initial research compiled for football world governing body Fifa, "won the World Cup" in terms of sponsorship.
"From all the data we have seen we believe that Coca-Cola really enjoyed the best success in 2006," says Jamie Graham, managing director of Sponsorship Intelligence, Fifa's official researchers.
"They are the best recalled of all sponsors from the tournament."
Speaking at the European Sponsorship Association's "Who Won the World Cup?" event, he pointed out the soft-drink firm had worked over the years to promote a successful partnership with football.
Coca-Cola was one of the 15 official Fifa "partners" at this year's event, but has been a World Cup partner of Fifa since the 1970 tournament in Mexico.
"Coca-Cola has benefited from the equity it has built up in football over many decades," says Mr Graham.
This year it was also immensely helped by its pre-tournament sponsorship of the World Cup trophy's tour of different cities in African countries and the UK, where it was accompanied by England forward Wayne Rooney.
And it admits that it was also able to attract fans to its products, as were all 15 sponsors, by the offer of tickets through competitions and other promotions.
Coca-Cola also decided to give its full backing to the Fan Festivals held before each match in Germany - events which proved to be a phenomenal success with crowd sizes treble those originally predicted.
"Wayne Rooney generates interest like no other player at the moment," says Steve Cumming, head of sponsorship for Coca-Cola GB.
"He is an important part of what we do. Association with the World Cup was our objective.
"You do not get front pages of tabloids easily, but we got that time and time again by combining two elements - the World Cup trophy and Wayne Rooney."
During the tournament, Coca-Cola also introduced a bit of innovation in its pitch-side branding, changing the colours on its perimeter boards to reflect the teams that were playing.
'Big event' fans
According to Sponsorship Intelligence's research, the World Cup attracts consumers who are not traditional football fans, and also contains a larger number of women and younger followers than the usual breakdown of supporters.
"Many are only interested in football when the big events, such as the World Cup, come around," says Mr Graham.
The World Cup attracts a higher level of female interest than normal
"So for sponsors the event delivers consumers that they would not get through domestic sponsorship."
The attractiveness of the tournament can be seen in the fact that about 80 firms were connected with some aspect of World Cup sponsorship, even if they were not one of the official Fifa partners.
One of those firms was Carlsberg, which was an official backer of the England team and, as such, was able to run a number of promotions and competitions tying in with the players.
It also produced one of the most memorable football-related advertisements around the World Cup - the ageing pub team featuring former England players and managers.
"During the World Cup was the best-ever performance for our brand - people want to be associated with the England team," says Gareth Roberts, sponsorship and media relations controller for Carlsberg UK.
Meanwhile, new research from Sportcal suggests the 2006 World Cup is on course for profits of 1.1bn euros( $1.4bn; £741m), with the estimated 1bn euros cost of staging the event outstripped by sales of tickets, merchandising, sponsorship and media rights.
Fifa told the authors of the World Cup 2006: The Commercial Report that the tournament would generate 1.9bn euros in marketing revenue, with the sale of TV and new media rights raising 1.2bn euros.
The remaining 700m euros comes from other sources such as sponsorship and hospitality.
And if the trends identified by Sponsorship Intelligence are accurate it appears that the World Cup's commercial appeal can still grow further, offering more opportunities for sponsors.
"There was a great explosion of interest in Asia following the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan - and this time round there was a huge increase in interest in Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia," says Mr Graham.
The World Cup drama that sponsors are looking for
He also said that television viewing figures for World Cup football in France, Germany, Italy, Brazil and Vietnam had all broken all records.
And that ever-increasing interest, Mr Graham believes, can only be good for football sponsorship, as companies strive to be connected with the appeal of the World Cup.
"It is the drama that is the core promotional hook for sponsors," he says.
And Coca-Cola certainly got that when their promotional icon Wayne Rooney was sent off against Portugal in the quarter finals.