June 11, 2018

It is difficult to pinpoint what makes football such an emotional game. Somewhere in some football pitch right now, a player may be practicing his shots, vaguely conscious of a very pressing sense of responsibility that he has learned to cope with mechanically. There are fans in every corner of the world who will be observing his every kick, his every movement, longing for him to work magic in the field of the World Cup, bringing to them virtually nothing but an intense joy that is ineffable. Just like him, the fans are preparing everywhere.  Getting ready, stocking up on food, meticulously setting up the sofas in the TV room, selecting what jersey to wear, proclaiming their love for a team or a player all over social media and so on. The passion and excitement everywhere is so palpable that it’s impossible to ignore for anyone. It is so unifying, that it has been a truly global tradition for ages, knowing no division, race, or language.

In light of all this, there is one party worldwide for whom this charged atmosphere entails something entirely different. The atmosphere forms the basis of the medium that people in all marketing departments ponder over well before the beginning of the World Cup, a platform attracting around 4 billion fans, leading to the possibility of communicating with over 50% of the planet’s inhabitants.

Given this opportunity, it is a certainty that most brands will be attempting to leverage the pull of the World Cup, locally or internationally, to engage with their target markets. This task, however, has become more challenging, yet potentially rewarding, than ever before. The psychographic and behavioural characteristics of the fans have seen massive changes and developments, along with the dominant channels they frequent.

42% of the world’s population also constitutes the active social media population, and taking into account how social media giants like Youtube and Facebook are increasingly becoming more popular as the medium through which the fans get their news, brands realise that the biggest winners of marketing don’t necessarily have to be the ones spending millions to be official sponsors. In fact, even in 2014, half of the 12 brands which achieved highest social buzz volume were not official sponsors at all. For example, quite surprisingly, 30% of the audience had wrongly believed well after the event that Nike, instead of Adidas, was the official sponsor. On the other hand, Beats by Dre, with their creative Youtube campaign of showing 5-minute clips of some of the most popular players in the tournament, managed to increase their online sales volume by 130%. 

These developments significantly influence the strategic decisions made by marketing teams. Due to the emotional connection people have with the World Cup, many brands focus on making particularly engaging campaigns in local settings. For example, Hyundai and Kia Motors had arranged a football tournament for fans, who would compete as five member teams in regional and national levels, with the finalist teams flown to Moscow to have their finals, and then watching a Round of 16 Match to top it all.

Analysts have observed that the combination of the social media hype and advancements in mobile technology make for a fan base that is highly and frequently involved on the internet in their complete experience of the game. On important matches like the 2017 Champions League Final, football fans globally were 48% more active on Snapchat than regular users and they were constantly creating and looking for relevant football content. Advancements in internet technology have given brands the power to very specifically target different fan bases and cater to their followers in a very interactive way. It seems that the World Cup isn’t just about being a big brand, rather, about being a very creative one communicating messages and launching campaigns very relevant and engaging to their target audience.

As the World Cup approaches, there has already been quite a lot of innovative campaigns underway, either simple or complex, large-scale or specifically targeted, easy to implement or very technologically advanced, all of which goes to show how the World Cup isn’t just about the 32 teams playing, the fans estimated to be amounting to over 4 billion people, and the giant companies on the front-line, but also every other large or small brand who now have a playing field that is leveled by advancements in technology and the appreciation for interactive marketing. We have the opportunity now to not only witness the beautiful game play out in all its glory, but also the intense creative battle for the consumers’ minds that is taking place in the world of branding.

Written by Siam Ahmed

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