The World Cup is underway, yet the response from advertisers has been subdued. With the fragmented way people watch the event, advertisers must scrap the traditional ways of getting their attention. Brands also are hesitant to sponsor this year’s World Cup because of increasing pressure to demonstrate ads’ business results, said Felim McGrath, senior trends manager at GlobalWebIndex.
Online sports viewing gathers momentum
Sixty-two percent of internet users worldwide plan to watch World Cup matches on TV, while a quarter plan to watch online, according to a Ipsos study of over 12,200 people. The trend is clearest in developing countries like China, where 47 percent of internet users plan to watch the event online, followed by 45 percent in India and 44 percent in Saudi Arabia. The shift to online viewing helps explain why this year’s tournament brought in $179 million less sponsorship revenue than the last one, and budgets for future tournaments will grow at a slower pace, said Tim Part, senior consultant at strategy agency MTM Sport.
The second screen in sports is social
More than half (51 percent) of fans watching World Cup matches on TV will use social media, while half will chat to or message friends as they watch, according to a GlobalWebIndex study of over 34,100 World Cup watchers. These findings are reflected in the timing of many of this year’s marketing campaigns around the event. The real boost in media spending around the World Cup happened after the tournament started rather than before, said Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting and director of global intelligence at Zenith. Brands seem to be focused on responding to on- and off-field events rather than relying on scripted narratives that started before the tournament, said Barnard.
The rise of the football influencer
As footballers become lifestyle and entertainment icons, fans’ loyalty to them deepens. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo collectively generated 570 million likes, comments and retweets from social media followers between January and May, more than 270 million ahead of Neymar, who generated the second most engagements, according to Nielsen. “Brands want more personal stories now to build their strategies around and so are going after players rather than the teams,” Barnard said.
Younger footballers are seemingly abandoning Facebook for Instagram, connecting with fans beyond the game by sharing their lives using features like Stories, according to social media consultancy Pitchside. For the top 30 players in the Premier League, Instagram accounts for more than 53.2 percent of their combined audience, with 106.5 millions fans, while Facebook has just 26.4 percent of share with 53.8 million fans, according fan data recorded between February and the end of the domestic football season in May. The same study found that more than 4 in 10 (41 percent) of the top 400 Premier League players do not have an official Facebook presence compared with 9 percent that lack an Instagram account.
China’s football focus
China’s team didn’t qualify for this year’s World Cup, but that hasn’t dampened China’s appetite for football. Advertisers follow the eyeballs, and in China, World Cup fever will spur advertising spending to 6.5 percent this year, up from 5.4 percent the previous year, to reach 630 billion yuan ($97.9 billion) — 16.2 percent of global ad investment, according to Dentsu Aegis. A large part of that spending will target millennials in China, according to Nielsen. This “bulge” of millennial fans is not typically seen in other markets, showing that the sport could be huge domestically in a decade, said Mike Wragg, Nielsen’s global head of research.