Counting on a huge global audience online for what's billed as the world's biggest sporting event, Yahoo is rolling out a new content and marketing blitz for the World Cup tournament. The effort spans the desktop Web and mobile devices and includes coverage from South Africa, fantasy games and new search tools for more than 20 countries.
A key part of the initiative is a downloadable Yahoo toolbar providing live scores, schedules and breaking news around the World Cup, which users can customize with a country-themed background, or "skin," to support one of the 32 national teams participating.
Following the action on the ground during the competition for Yahoo which runs from June 11 to July 11 will be staff sportswriters Dan Wetzel, Martin Rogers, and Les Carpenter. The Web portal will also offer "World Soccer Roundup," a daily video news show that will recap top stories and give information on upcoming World Cup events and Dirty Tackle, a soccer blog from editor Brooks Peck.
To help boost engagement, Yahoo has launched a fantasy soccer game that lets fans in 22 countries select winners for each World Cup match. Another online game will let fans face off in a virtual penalty kick shoot-out for the chance to win the Yahoo Sports Pass, providing tickets to any four top sporting events in the world per year for the next four years.
Later this month, Yahoo will also launch a companion mobile site for the World Cup, packaging scores, news and player profiles, among other content. It will be available in 40 markets covering 13 languages and across more than 4,500 types of devices.
Yahoo's World Cup effort also extends offline, with events scheduled in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Indonesia, Spain, and the United Kingdom featuring some of the sport's top goalkeepers, past and present. The company is offering co-branding ad opportunities for these events as well as related online ad options at the country and international level.
Yahoo is certainly hoping for a strong follow-up to its coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, which drew an audience of 32 million over 17 days, beating out ESPN's and NBC's online Olympic ratings.
Professional soccer has never enjoyed strong fan support in the U.S., but with its 600 million users worldwide, Yahoo is counting on the game's immense popularity almost everywhere else to attract a strong international audience. Slower-than-expected ticket sales and airline and hotel books for the World Cup games to date could also translate into a larger audience for online content related to the event.