Let's face it. When it comes to global marketing opportunities, the World Cup makes the Super Bowl look like a high school football playoff game. This year, 108 million people watched the Super Bowl. During the last World Cup, 3.2 billion tuned in, with 715 million global citizens sitting on the edge of their seat for the finals alone. Even better, the fact that the Cup's month of action is quadrennial means it's sandwiched between four years of rabid anticipation from a fully engaged, globally diverse audience.
In short, it’s both a marketer’s dream and potential nightmare.
Here are a few of the challenges. First, soccer is played in 45-minute continuous halves with the only breaks coming at halftime, so broadcast opportunities are constrained. Second, the space available for purchase is hyper-inflated, with eight-figure commercial partnerships and global sponsorship packages sold out long in advance. And third, with brands fighting for share of voice not only against each other but also against the personalities of some of most idolized athletes in the world (David Beckham, Ronaldo, etc.), marketing cost and competition have never been so high.
Another conundrum for advertisers is the proliferation and popularity of social media. Brazil’s World Cup will be the most cluttered social conversation ever. In fact, according to Twitter, three separate soccer matches have already achieved higher tweets-per-second peaks than the 2012 London Olympics. The 2012 Euro Cup final alone generated 16.5 million total tweets from a viewing audience of just under 300 million. The last World Cup final drew more than twice as many viewers, and that’s just one game. There will be 64 matches next summer generating hundreds of millions of social mentions. This global conversation provides a greater opportunity for earned media, but it also makes it incredibly difficult for brands to make themselves heard.
Events that involve this much advertising bring the world’s best marketers together to compete among themselves. During the 2010 World Cup, Nike drove more than twice as much social conversation as Adidas, despite it not being an official sponsor. However, Adidas set a company record with more than $1.8 billion in soccer-based sales that year, so both claimed victory.
So who will win the battle of merchandise sales and retweats in 2014? The "fitba" fans at our Charlotte ad agencies are eagerly awaiting the action off the pitch as much as what happens during the actual matches. Clearly, creativity and technological acumen will separate the winning brands from the losers, and we expect as many giant flops as epic performances. So stay tuned ...