Wednesday 22 May, 2019

Digital marketing and the World Cup

At the 2014 World Cup, social media use broke all records, and tweets flew out at unprecedented rates. We discussed Neymar’s injury, the praying mantis that rode James Rodriguez’s arm, how Messi pulled Argentina kicking and screaming into the latter stages of the competition, Tim Howard’s flurry of saves, and of course that game.

There was a constant flurry of activity throughout the competition, and this culminated in a final that racked up over 280 million interactions. Yes, that’s right. Two hundred and eight million interactions.

Many of the brands that capitalised on this online activity were the big advertisers. However, since the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal, some of the biggest Western advertisers let their World Cup partnerships expire.

There are now big sponsorship deals between FIFA and large Eastern corporations vying for a global audience. Hisense, the Chinese tech developer, has signed a large sponsorship deal with FIFA, as has China’s second-largest Dairy company the Mengniu Group.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s love of football is well-documented. He acknowledges the role of football as a key tool of social influence in the world. His plan to transform China into a major force in football is on track for 2050, it has been facilitated by improving the Chinese Super League and encouraging marketers to align themselves with football.

Here, marketing intersects with global politics and the optics of the competition grow in importance. We will now be marketed to by Eurasian corporations as the audience and marketers in global football have changed.

Despite China not making it to the World Cup, Russia expects 100,000 Chinese visitors this summer. Diplomatic partnerships have in recent years dictated where Chinese tourists travel to.

But the strong relationship between mainland China and Russia has meant that the level of Chinese tourism in Russia has increased. This summer’s special visa-free exemption for the tournament has encouraged many travellers.

Since certain sponsorship deals were allowed to expire in 2015, FIFA has received three additional top-tier sponsors: Qatar Airways, Russian oil-giant Gazprom and Chinese private housing developer, the Wanda Group.

We don’t know the moments that will come to define the World Cup this year, however, we can expect to see a different type of target market for our advertisers in 2018. In a sense, we will see a more commercially-global World Cup. It may become apparent that those moments that were most heavily tweeted and talked about in English on platforms like Twitter, that were used by large advertisers to market so effectively, can now be utilised by global companies.

With the US not in the competition, we can expect a diminished rate of engagement from American companies and audiences. What propelled US audience engagement at the last World Cup was seeing Tim Howard’s performances and a promising US side. This time there is less pull nor will there be a dramatic or geo-politically tense match played out in front of a global audience.

Many of these sponsors will be new to Western eyes, so how will they cater and appeal to their new audience? Will they rely on tactics that introduce us to advertising and displays that are uncommon and use alternate technologies? How will people react on social media to these new brands?

We’ll soon find out!



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