Soccer Marketing Is On The Attack

The German national team famously overhauled its traditionally defensive-minded game into a potent offense over the past decade, leading to victory in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Sunday. Some advertisers are doing the same — albeit more rapidly — as they attempt to engage consumers who are themselves playing a different type of game than just a tournament or so ago.

“Germany’s World Cup final victory over Argentina smashed global records on Twitter, and has become the biggest sporting event in Facebook’s history,” reports The Guardian’s Mark Sweeney. But that’s because they were, by and large, glued to good old television (even if they, as I did, viewed the tournament on a WatchESPN iPhone app playing on a 50-inch screen through Apple TV). 

“Through all 64 matches of the 2014 tournament, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC averaged a 3.1 metered market rating, an increase of 29% compared to the 64 matches of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (2.4),” Andrew Beaton and Reed Johnson report in the Wall Street Journal

Those figures lead Sandy Brown, CEO of ONE World Sports, to say, “I think this train is moving and I don't see it stopping,” although he “acknowledge[s] that marketers are at somewhat of a disadvantage when it comes to soccer, since the sport consists of two commercial break-free 45-minute halves.” 

That said, brands “do have other opportunities to glean ad impressions during the match itself by transposing virtual images onto the field and in the stands,” he noted to Beaton and Johnson. Not that anybody was noticing the “Fly Emirates” signage as Mario Goetz celebrated his go-ahead goal in the final. Or did we?

“Germany 1. World Cup Fever 1,000,” reads the hed atop Stuart Elliott’s advertising column in the New York Times this morning. Ricardo Fort, Visa’s SVP for global sponsorship marketing, tells Elliott that although the brand has “been involved with soccer in the United States for a long time, we were not expecting to have the interest, engagement, in the United States that we did.”

“Visa had ‘more than 750 people working on our team during the event’ throughout Brazil, Mr. Fort said, including staff members of a ‘real-time newsroom’ that created content like video clips, Facebook posts and digital ads while the games were played,” Elliott writes. Besides Rio de Janeiro, “there were also outposts in New York and San Francisco,” he reports. 

Meanwhile, branded video campaigns “attracted an unprecedented amount of views” — 671.6 million in 97 campaigns — “beating out commercial views for both the recent Super Bowl and Olympic Games,” Grace Chung reports in Ad Age. Of course, the Super Bowl only lasts one game and the World Cup tournament takes place over a month, but there is “still a considerable run-up to the Super Bowl, when marketers release web videos ahead of time,” Chung points out.

“World Cup sponsor Adidas unquestionably beat non-sponsor Nike for TV time and exposure, but Nike reigned as the most-viewed brand of the tournament in terms of online video, with eight campaigns garnering a total 240.6 million views, according to Visible Measures,” writes Chung.

Adidas’ sponsorship didn’t come cheap, as Ira Boudway documents in Bloomberg Businessweek. “In May, Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer told reporters that the company was investing a ‘double-digit-million sum’ in World Cup advertising,” he writes, citing an estimated annual budget “in the neighborhood of $275 million” and an estimated gain in soccer-related revenue to $2.7 billion from $2.4 billion a year ago.

“If soccer’s gain comes at the expense of some other division, however, then it’s no victory for Adidas. The best measure will be total revenue against the total marketing budget,” Boudway points out.

Forbes contributor Margie Warrell uses Germany’s attack-minded offense to purvey a lesson she preaches in her book, Stop Playing Safe: “While playing safe may feel safe in the short term, while we’re busily protecting what we have, we can get left behind as the world around us marches steadily forward.”

As an example: “Instead of developing a new service or product to cater for a new market or opportunity you keep perfecting the one you’ve got. All the while competitors seize the crucial early advantage. Think Kodak.”

Ah, yes. Remember the good old days — 1984 and 1988 — when Kodak and Fuji alternately ambushed each other’s World Cup sponsorships?

Kodak and Fuji made film. For single lens reflex cameras.

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1 comment about "Soccer Marketing Is On The Attack ".
  1. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost , July 15, 2014 at 12:28 p.m.
    While I did miss the "Fly Emirates" digital signage, I could not help but notice the instantly recognizable Emirates flight attendants, who held the silver and gold medals on trays for the award ceremony. My friends and I found ourselves saying "coffee, tea, medal?"