A Sporting Chance – Perspective on the Beautiful Game [World Cup]

Sport has always offered a substantial and sustainable opportunity for marketers to out-innovate their competitors by connecting audiences to the love of the game on an immeasurable scale. In the biggest sporting event, the 2014 World Cup takes place next year in Brazil offering marketers a myriad of opportunity to connect with football fans from all over the world.

Football has always been a tribal game and transcends social and demographic boundaries. The popularity of the World Cup makes it the world’s number one in terms of breadth of appeal; by bringing out the passions of everyone to break out beyond the world of sport, into the mainstream.

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Year-on-year, fan engagement with sports media has been evolving. In particular, we are seeing a shift in attitudes towards media consumption across various devices and platforms, where the focus of attention is no longer just a live TV broadcast but encapsulates the wider Internet-sphere, accessing  live match streaming, news feeds and peer-to-peer conversations over blogs and social networks. It is expected a 37% increase in multi-screen consumption when compared to previous activity during EURO 2012, from 54% to 74%.

Connected devices will further add fuel to the fire of football fandom with people accessing World Cup content through a mobile device expected to double, when compared to the last event. The 2014 World Cup is poised to uphold its name to be a mega global social event with ever increasing fan interaction with brands that sponsor or advertise on this platform.

Additionally, Brazil is expected to take social brand engagement to a whole other level. Recently crowned the “Social Media capital of the world” by Wall Street Journal,  Brazil is an important social media market that advertisers want to tap into. A country of 199 Million people, 65 Million Facebook users and 33.3 Million Twitter users, it is second only to the US in terms of population size and social media market. An advertiser’s campaign has the potential for high sharing and as many as a billion views given Brazilians have a propensity to share – the average global share rate is 1.31%, but in Brazil this average skyrockets to 4.41%. It will no doubt be the most cluttered social conversation we have yet to experience… hence this environment will make it incredibly difficult for advertisers to stand out in the social and digital space.

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What is crystal clear is the opportunity that a mega-event such as the World Cup presents. The World Cup boasts a large reach with enormous influence. In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa there was a cumulative audience of over 26 Billion who watched the event, while the event reached 715 Million in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. World Cup is the most watched event to date in the history of marketing.

Nonetheless, marketing during the World Cup (or any other mega-event for that matter) does not automatically guarantee success. It is ultimately the world’s most high-stakes marketing event, and with limited TV broadcast opportunities to stand out. In the 2010 World Cup, it was reported that FIFA made $2.5 Billion through the sale of TV rights, sponsorship and marketing rights. Similarly we saw over-inflated media costs with an average 30-sec TV spot going for $250,000 just to appear in the Finals ad break. In 2014, the price tag of $75 Million is what advertisers would need to pay to become an official World Cup sponsor.

To successfully transform the event into value-enhancing, consumer-focused campaigns, marketers must first acquire a deep understanding of this audience.

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World Cup is an event that unites people and will continue to be enjoyed by billions of people.  The perspective that viewers take on these events has become increasingly personal and focused on connecting with others based on shared areas of interest rather than physical location. Wherever you are in the world, the passion for football and the love of the game is all about connection, brotherhood and celebration.

The winner is invariably the brand that thinks and behaves like a fan rather than those that simply talk a good game. Andy Sutherden, Head of Sport, Hill & Knowlton

1. Capturing the spirit of the fan

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The passionate fan has long attracted the attention in sports marketing and marketers are realising its increasing lucrative nature of his/her involvement. Football is very much associated with passion, emotion, excitement and dedication. As an entertainment offering it represents a unique form of experiential consumption, evoking a full range of emotional responses – from pure joy and exhilaration to the intense state of despair.  Football, particularly during the World Cup, gives fans the opportunity to let themselves go emotionally and to release the frustrations of everyday life. Believing in the ‘living’ experience of football, fans see themselves as the “Twelfth Man” – fostering a strong sense of belonging to their team, an active role to help their team to win. As such, fans perform ritual chants, songs, banner waving, etc. to create a sense of community and identity.

World Cup provides the perfect opportunity for marketers to tap into the hearts of their audiences and to develop a meaningful connection that is deeply rooted in the pride and passion to create a unique experience.

2. Fostering Unity

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Football is an effective vehicle for bringing people together – whether it is supporting the same club, or a metaphor for national identity. Football is also seen as a family occasion in the more conventional sense. The sport provides a setting where important family occasions are played out and day-to-day interactions with the family are facilitated such as shared viewing experiences to family bonding moments.  Through this, families are able to establish, and engage with, a lasting sense of tradition and belonging.

Many marketers have exploited this to their advantage by playing on country traditions and club cultures to connect with fans by stirring a sense of national pride and communal spirit.

3.  Women watch football too

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When someone asks you to picture the audience for sports marketing, what comes to mind? Do you automatically picture a group of guys sitting around, watching the game together? Most people would envision males rather than females due to stereotypes. Marketers are no different. Where we have influence, we should educate otherwise.

In many countries, the number of women present at games has been increasing steadily over years, and they are now often very well represented in many stadiums. This is also true with football TV viewership increasing among women.  The days of “football widows” are over. According to media agency, Initiative, the proportion of women viewing the World Cup has grown from 39% in 1998 to what is expected to be a record 42% in South Africa. It is an opportunity for them to socialise – something to share with the man in their life or gathering with her family and friends for that football-watching experience.  Not acknowledging the female fan base can result in lost dollars for a company, not to mention a disconnect with the brand.

I believe these are 3 key elements that marketers should be looking at to capitalise on the World Cup fever.  Brands do not own big emotions. People do. By understanding the motivations and values of these audiences, marketers can start to develop advertising programmes from their perspective and give World Cup a sporting chance for their businesses.

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