World Cup Fever: How Advertisers Beat Sports Fans Into Submission -- Or Unconsciousness

Week two of the global FIFA World Cup party. So far the event is delivering great entertainment, except when you are Brazil. Brazil’s team is struggling to live up to its unrealistic lofty fan expectations, and there are still daily protests in Brazil against the enormous expense at which this festival comes. The Brazilians love football, but hate FIFA and their own government.

And as I explained last week, I am not loving the way marketers in the USA are treating us. I think most FIFA World Cup marketing has been designed by dumb and dumber, under the assumption that we are dumb and dumber, too (see what I did there?).

We’re not. We are 21st century consumers. We trust friends, peer reviews, even online strangers more than advertisers. We are connected and fact-checking digital mobile creatures. Multiscreen rules! You would think this reality has somehow bypassed marketers completely when you look at World Cup advertising. (Yes, TV is still a powerful medium -- but only in the hands of smart and ingenious story-tellers and media planners.)



Let’s review Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 strategy. I won’t pass judgment on the brand’s commercial, but I get its message: Your life will be easier when you’re waking up and going to sleep with the versatile Surface. The media strategy is where things really go wrong (and where the agency must be living in 1980), because this easy-to-understand message is shown three to four times during every match. And to make sure we memorize Microsoft Surface in our dumb-and-dumber brains, the brand has added its logo and on-air mentions to the broadcast. As a result of this over-delivery, I now hate the Surface and the Red-Bull-oozing lifestyle of the nerd who demos it.

In the olden days, we were taught about Effective Frequency. Erwin Ephron (R.I.P.) said that the more a planner goes for frequency on television, the less effective he will progressively be, because the extra GRPs will fall increasingly into the "black hole" of heavy viewers, when they already have more than enough Opportunities to See .

This is where Microsoft and other World Cup advertisers, as well as ESPN and other U.S. broadcaster, get sports wrong. No, we’re not so distracted that we have to be reminded every break about the Surface. After showing us a few times, we get it. When you are really into an event like the FIFA World Cup, the Oscars or even the Coca Cola Daytona 500 at the Sprint Speedway brought to you by flippin’ heck who cares, there really is no need to beat us, the engaged viewer, over the head so many times, believing that we will ultimately submit into a puddle of eager buyers. We won’t.

Instead of cramming the whole Surface story into a 30-second spot and forcing it down our throats every break, why not create an epic two-minute story? Why not pick the Super Bowl match of the day, based on your target audience’s highest affinity, and own a whole break? I am sure that would have the same, if not more, impact,while minimizing overkill and maximizing reach versus the spray-and-pray strategy Microsoft now deploys.

Anyway, my Oranje team scraped through to the next round, so I am back encamped in front of the TV. Next week we will talk about the value of being an official FIFA World Cup sponsor.

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