Where is Croatia? Why Football and Tourism Should Be Branded Together

By 18 November 2018

November 18, 2018 - 'Where is Croatia'? It was one of the huge spikes in Google Search in July during the World Cup. Is it time to brand Croatian tourism with its world-famous ambassadors?

"This World Cup presented a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the country’s existence. To break the first barrier of every marketing campaign: brand recognisability." Iva Glavinic's excellent blog on the World Cup Effect and Mediatoolkit's monitoring of the surge in interest in the tiny nation which dared to dream gave a very rational breakdown in terms of date of the very irrational events of the footballing summer of 2018 in Russia. 

Where is Croatia?

Where is Croatia? became one of the most-searched terms on TCN that month (although quite some way behind 'Croatian President bikini' for some reason...), and with literally hundreds of millions of hearts around the world newly in love with this incredible sporting achievement and its fabulous travelling supporters, 'where is Croatia located' searches indicated a huge desire to learn more about the country which already welcomed 18 million tourists a year, their business bringing in 20% of the country's GDP. 

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And it wasn't just the football that captured so many hearts all around the world. Everything about the Croatian presence in Russia was adorable, down to the young kids of the players joining on their pitch in miniature Croatian shirts. 

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And although the main story was taking place on the pitch, Croatia's travelling support was magnificent. So many new friendships were made, and so many people were coming into contact with Croatia, perhaps for the first time. And they obviously liked what they saw - searches for 'where is Croatia' were going through the roof. 

It wasn't just the beauty, enthusiasm and hospitality of the fans, though - there was something distinctive and uber-cool about THAT shirt. The red and white chequers of Croatia were very distinctive and instantly recognisable. There was something super cool about being associated with this cool, tiny country. Croatia shirt sales went nuts.  

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And just when you thought the story could not get any better, with pictures of an emotional and photogenic Croatian president hugging everyone in the rain after defeat in the final, as President Putin looked on holding the only umbrella in the room, it DID get better. In what must arguably be the greatest sporting homecoming of all time (certainly for the size of the country), some 550,000 people descended onto the streets of Zagreb to welcome their heroes home. 

It was an unforgettable occasion, and images were beamed around the world. 'Where is Croatia' searches went into overdrive once more.  

In case you missed it, or what to relive those crazy summer moments as winter descends, check out this excellent homecoming to Zagreb video above.  


Seven months before the World Cup started, the Croatian National Tourist Board released a new promo video, which showcased Croatia through the World Cup squad introducing their hometowns. It was extremely well done and successful (and we have an interview with the agency who made it coming shortly), winning a prestigious travel video award, as previously reported by TCN. Did someone have a crystal ball about Croatia's imminent success? Whatever the reason, having such a video on hand as the world hungered for more information about Croatia, here were the World Cup heroes getting up close and personal about so many gorgeous places to see in Croatia. 

Putting Croatian Tourism on the Global Map, One Goal at a Time

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Interest in Croatia was insane. More than 60 BILLION mentions over the World Cup period, according to the media-monitoring service, Mediatoolkit - more than all online mentions of Croatia in the 28 years of the existence of the modern Croatian state, COMBINED!

A marketing and promo gift, as well as an international branding image embedded all over the globe. With the power of football these days, the likes of Luka Modric are known about in almost every town in the world. 

So why not use it as a cornerstone of Croatia's ongoing campaign? 

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As Glavinic's data showed, not only was the spike in interest in Croatia during this World Cup, but also during previous tournaments, as well as the European Football Championships. 2016, 2014, 2012, 2008, but not 2010, the year that Croatia did not go to the World Cup. What is the biggest factor in generating interest in Croatia? Football.

As a longtime resident here, I think the combination of sporting success, passionate and welcoming fans, and yes, that distinctive shirt, is a real winner, and I think it would be very productive to include it more in the country's tourism branding. Where is Croatia? Ah, yes that wonderful country with great team spirit, warm, passionate and hospitable fans, what is it like for a holiday?

Croatia SHOULD experience a mini-boom in tourism from the World Cup - maybe too late tor this summer, but certainly for next.

Unique Selling Points and Promoting Croatian Tourism


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This post has its origins in an excellent Croatian health tourism branding seminar which took place at Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb recently, with leading medical travel branding guru, Ilan Geva. Among the many topics he covered that day, USP - Unique Selling Point - was one. He had a really great slide with about 30 logos of tourism boards around the world. Although some were slick in design, they all had one thing in common - their colours were all very similar, it was as though a class had been given 7 pencils and asked to draw tourism logos. I didn't take a picture of the slide, unfortunately, but here are a few random ones I pulled from the web to illustrate the point. 

"Which one of these stands out and is showing its unique selling point?" asked Geva.

Which one indeed? I quite like the Croatia logo, but just as with the others, there wasn't really a USP, and none them stood out from the crowd. 

And then I thought back to those crazy scenes in July, when Croatia was on the lips of billions. Thanks to that shirt, those incredible fans and even more incredible players (no need to play that well at Wembley today, by the way...), Croatia has a distinctive visual identity now recognised all over the globe. So why not use it and combine it with one of the things Croatia is most famed for - its hospitality. There are more experienced designers out there to make a much better logo, but you get the basic concept:


Croatia, Full of Hospitality - come visit the land of the tiny country which dared to dream, reconnect with its passionate fans, and enjoy its famed hospitality. 

What do we think?

To learn more about Ilan Geva, visit his official website

To learn 'where is Croatia' and lots of other things about this slice of paradise in south-east Europe, why not follow TCN on Facebook?