Marketing the FIFA way

27 Jun,2014


By Delshad Irani


The FIFA World Cup is arguably the biggest topic all marketers are currently obsessing about. The main course is the big budget commercials directed by awardwinning filmmakers for brands like Nike or Adidas. Or the five-minute-plus videos featuring the likes of Neymar Jr and Co (9 footballers in total) in the midst of pre-game rituals, be it a moment of contemplation in the locker room or sex before the big game, as seen in the recent video hit for audio brand Beats By Dre.


Accompanying them are the condiments: collective experiences scattered all over the month-long feast. Marketers have set up real-time war rooms and have been weeding or tweeting themselves into conversations to engage with global football fans. Welcome to the first truly social World Cup.


At Cannes, Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg spoke to a room full of advertising professionals and creatives from over 100 countries. Sandberg is an American and admits to not being too familiar with the game of football or soccer, as they call it across the Atlantic. However, she is fully aware of what Facebook, the social network with over a billion users, has to gain during the FIFA World Cup.


During the last FIFA World Cup, Facebook had over 500 million users across the world. Today, there are over 500 million users actively engaging on topics and content around the FIFA World Cup Brazil. The power of the borderless sport has been fuelled by a socially connected world where fans living at opposite ends of the earth can interact, share the joys and disappointments that come with the most popular sport on the planet. And guess who wants to listen and participate in the action? Marketers, of course.


In another seminar at Cannes, Wendy Clark, vice-president, The Coca-Cola Company, connected with Coke’s realtime marketing station in Rio de Janeiro during her presentation. The Coke Rio room itself could be easily mistaken for a NASA outpost with a dedicated crew monitoring multiple screens to track the conversation and respond in real-time.


An advertiser like Coca-Cola that dabbles in everything from the grand 60-second television commercial to marketing devices that are no older than your latest smartphone has pounded our screens and feeds with hashtags and the world?s largest selfie mosaic of football fans this edition. Brands across the board are looking for intriguing and unobtrusive ways to engage. As Clark says, for brands ?Silence is no longer an option in a socially connected world.


Apart from the unbridled passion of fans, there’s the numbers. The average viewership of a World Cup match at 125 million, is equal to 64 Superbowls, the American football extravaganza that has US marketers pumping in millions of dollars for a 30-second TV spot. According to a report by IPG Mediabrands, an estimated audience of 410 million will tune in for the the World Cup final. The study also found that 76% of adults have used a second screen in the past year whilst watching a sports match on TV. If brands can capture the imagination of the audience within those few seconds when his or her eyes are not on the pitch or while people involve themselves in football chatter offline and on, consider half the battle won.


The job then is to have audiences volunteer their time to participate and contribute to the conversation brands have going. Even the over 12,000 communication professionals at the Cannes Lions had a chance to be part of the game conversation.


Apart from taking over the local pubs to watch matches, delegates could pop by the Exact Target Marketing Cloud booth outside the Majestic hotel on the Croisette where they could play footie with a connected football. That’s right after the Brazucam, the Adidas official ball that has a 360-degree camera and a Twitter feed of its own, we have a ball that tracks the number of goals scored within 30 seconds. It then awards bonus points based on the location of the shot, then posts the rankings on a real-time score board.


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