Commentary

Think Mobile, Act Local

As the biggest and most-watched sporting event in the world, the World Cup attracts the attention of millions of people every year. The audience ranges from avid soccer supporters who live and die with the sport to people who only pay attention when the stakes are high for their national pride. Still, one thing is certain: the world’s eyes are largely focused on the games -- and on the messages surrounding them.

Although the games are already underway, there is still some time left before the July 13 final, so it's not too late to take advantage of the global event in your mobile marketing campaigns -- or to begin thinking ahead to strategies to implement for the Women’s World Cup next year, or the 2018 games. So whether you're looking to execute a campaign immediately or are thinking ahead, here are a few strategies to implement for your World Cup-themed (or World Cup-adjacent) mobile marketing campaigns.

Local Campaigns, Global Event

Time zones complicate most internationally televised events. With the advent and increasing popularity of streaming video, this is truer than ever before. Think of the 2012 Olympic opening ceremonies, which most Americans had already seen online by the time they were broadcast on NBC. Although most of Brazil is only one or two time zones ahead of New York (4-5 hours ahead of LA and San Francisco), which makes it easy for residents of the Americas to watch the games in real-time, it’s worth noting that soccer fans in the rest of the world are either watching the games on delay or are watching them outside of prime viewing hours.

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So while it may be business as usual for domestic brands and advertisers looking to time mobile campaigns with related World Cup content, global deployment of a campaign must be more thoughtful. Pushing the same ad out at the same time to all in-market countries might work for an online soccer merchandise store, but the beer ad that was perfectly appropriate at 6 p.m. in Brazil may be a bit less welcome to people who woke up early to catch a match at 7 a.m. in Australia (but could be very welcome when the match re-airs at 7 p.m. that same evening). For large, globally televised events, it's not enough to merely daypart a mobile campaign domestically: this is more like “world-parting” -- figuring out what sort of content to run at what time across a dozen or more time zones.

Beyond what is being advertised at certain times, it's also important to consider how the product or service is being advertised. Temporal language, or copy that indicates the timing of an event or broadcast, must be localized. An ad for a clothing store that exists in both Seoul and Manhattan should not say “visit us now” to consumers in both of those markets, unless the boutique is open 24 hours a day.

Language is another important component of campaign localization. Many residents of the countries playing in the World Cup do know basic English, but don’t use corporate speak or American slang in your ad unless you are confident that it transcends borders. After identifying what countries you plan to target -- and with which products, when, and how -- it’s equally crucial to make sure that your message doesn't get lost in translation.

Given the variety of languages, you could go crazy translating your ad into multiple local dialects, so just find the language that your audience is used to hearing and reading every day. It can be the difference between driving sales and awareness, or driving mobile users to click “x” as soon as they see it.

Think Screens

Despite the increasing popularity of streaming broadcasts, the majority of those watching the World Cup will still be doing so on television screens. To target consumers based only on their streaming video habits, therefore, means missing out on a huge swath of audience that has been avidly following the games, but not via streaming video.

Marketers must therefore develop a cross-screen strategy. This can be done in part by location targeting, such as people gathered at a sports bar while a match is on, or cross-device matching, so that a phone and a smart television connected to the same WiFi network can be associated with another. In some cases, you can even ask consumers to associate the devices themselves. 

Cross-screen targeting is still very new, but by the 2018 games in Russia or perhaps even by next year’s Women’s games in Canada, it will be crucial in order to engage with the entire World Cup audience -- not just the people streaming games on their devices.

Create, Don’t Automate

Although many automation capabilities are now available, when looking to customize a campaign around possibly hundreds of different markets, it's important to employ a human touch for things like translation and localization.

Automatic translation technology is getting better all the time, but having a native speaker approve content will help stave off embarrassment if something is technically correct, but idiomatically off. Creative teams can also do work like swapping one popular player or team for another, which an automated platform might not be able to execute smoothly (if at all).

Allow your team to do the work that can’t be done by robots, and to set parameters around the work that can, and your World Cup campaigns are bound to have a bigger impact around the globe.

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