How Audi Created the World’s Biggest World Cup Scoreboard

Guerrilla marketing worth at least $2.1 million

Headshot of Robert Klara

Anyone who remembers when Ikea installed living rooms inside of bus kiosks or Red Bull’s Nascar racing team set up a pit stop in the middle of Times Square knows that New York is the place for a high-impact guerrilla-marketing stunt.

But the latest contribution to this branding pantheon—Audi’s Giant LED Scoreboard in Brooklyn—shows just how high the bar of entry has been raised for brands that want that kind of street-marketing cred. In the 1980s, legendary adman Jay Conrad Levinson explained that guerrilla marketing worked because it was surprising, easy and inexpensive.

Well, it’s still surprising—but cheap and easy? Not in New York, yo.

First, a recap. Last week, Audi switched on the lights in its titanic installation on the Brooklyn waterfront. The “scoreboard”—which will display top World Cup results for the rest of the month—is actually a grid of shipping containers, nine rows of them stacked five high. A showroom-new Audi A8 sits inside each open-ended container. With the cars’ headlights turned on (plus a little bit of dramatic red backlighting), the containers form two massive “8” configurations that resemble a digital clock.

In a bit of (well-earned) horn tooting, Audi’s press statement proclaimed that the display “will bring the excitement of world-class soccer to NYC.”

No doubt, that is true. 

But excitement—especially here in New York—means there’s a tab to pay, and Audi has obviously dug deep for this one. The first hurdle was finding a spot with good sightlines from Manhattan and big enough to pile up 45 intermodal shipping containers. “We looked at several prominent locations when scouting for a site,” Audi of America’s marketing director Loren Angelo told Adweek, “and Greenpoint was chosen because of the level of visibility it provided the scoreboard. It can be seen along the entire East Side.”

Audi’s team loaded 28 new A8 sedans into the shipping containers, which were then hoisted into place, the top row perched 40 feet over the East River. (An aside here: Audi did not disclose the cost of this little project, but given the A8’s base price of $75,100, it committed at least $2.1 million worth of product to the effort.)

Wiring up the entire assembly mandated close to 2½ miles of cable, which connects the relay boards for each car’s LEDs to a central controller located on-site. An operator sits out there with a computer, making sure we get those scores from Brazil.

Before you get the warm fuzzies for Audi performing this feat of public service, it’s worth mentioning that this setup will culminate not in a match in South America, but one in New Jersey. On July 31, Munich’s FC Bayern will take on Club Deportivo Guadalajara in the Audi Football Summit in the Meadowlands. (Audi AG is a partial owner of FC Bayern, which probably also explains the lavish marketing outlay going on in Brooklyn.)

We haven’t seen the winner’s trophy for this tournament, but just in case the prizes haven’t been picked out yet, Audi will have 28 slightly used A8s on hand. Just a suggestion.

@UpperEastRob Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.