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“KeNako.” “It’s time.”

As the eyes of the world turn to South Africa to see the best of the best play in the ‘beautiful game,’ one can’t help but take a finer look at the 2010 World Cup branding.

The 2010 World Cup is notable because it is the first World Cup that will be hosted by an African nation. That being said, we can identify a number of visual connections. The amorphous silhouette of a player is clearly reminiscent of Africa’s form and very bold colors create a shape similar to the South African flag.

Other subliminal connections lie within the mascot, “Zakumi,” a jersey-wearing, green-haired leopard. Apparently, the “za” abbreviation is South Africa’s web domain and “kumi” translates to “ten” in many African languages.

No brand is perfect, but with the world’s most watched sporting event, one wonders: Does the level of design match the level of exposure? How critical is branding for an event this size? For an event so largely anticipated and supported, does branding even matter?