Tag Archive: sports marketing

  1. Advertising and the World Cup

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    The action at the 2022 World Cup has officially kicked off, after weeks of controversy and speculation. The World Cup is the key event on the global sporting calendar, so brands across the world invest a huge amount of time, money and effort into creating brand-building World Cup campaigns that reach a global audience – particularly audiences that are usually more challenging to reach. Two or three years of sporting events negatively impacted by the pandemic – particularly the Tokyo Olympics – have only exacerbated the appetite for this opportunity. And the fact that it is happening – for the first and possibly only time – just before the holiday season – would normally make this advertising gold.

    However, several factors have made the global response – from both advertisers and fans – more muted than normal.

    The reasons World Cup advertising is different this year

    Social issues

    The key issues lie with the host nation. Qatar has a poor human rights record, particularly on issues such as LGBTQ+ rights and workers’ rights. Homosexuality is illegal, and many migrant workers died from the heat and poor working conditions while constructing the World Cup venues. Many brands are nervous about the potential backlash from associating themselves with the World Cup and, by extension, Qatar.

    Budweiser, a major sponsor of the World Cup, has faced its own unique challenges in the run-up to the tournament. The consumption of alcohol is very restricted in Qatar and is banned in public spaces. There has been much wrangling between Fifa – with contractual obligations to Budweiser – and Qatari authorities about the sale of alcohol and providing promotional space for the AB InBev brand. An agreement was reached that beer could be sold within a security perimeter outside venues; however, just eight days before the start of the tournament, a message was passed down from the highest levels of the Qatari state that Budweiser’s presence must be moved to less obtrusive locations, away from other concessions and sponsor activity. And then, just 48 before the first game, Fifa confirmed that the sale of beer in stadiums was banned entirely, meaning that Qatar had reneged on its commitment to allow the sale of alcohol both when bidding for the World Cup and when it signed contracts after winning.

    The economic context

    The cost of living and looming recession are also factors in the somewhat muted response to the World Cup this year. With consumers tightening their belts, brands are focusing on performance marketing more than on driving global awareness with a World Cup campaign. That said, World Cup advertising campaigns are so important to many brands that many will have committed their ad dollars to them up to 12 months ago, so the impact of the economic downturn won’t be as noticeable as might have been expected.

    The time of year

    The timing of the World Cup this year is also having an impact on marketing. Normally held in the summer, it was moved to the winter to accommodate the Qatari climate, which has summers far too hot for sport to be played. This of course moved it closer to the holiday season which sees such a high proportion of marketing budgets, but also means it is on screen at the same time as other sports, particularly in the US, where NBL, NFL and NHL are all competing for eyeballs.

    Should World Cup advertising focus on the issues or the football?

    With the above issues in mind and the need to focus on holiday season marketing, many marketers have dialled down their World Cup-based marketing this time around, with some possibly earmarking the money to invest in the 2026 tournament, which will be hosted by the far less controversial North America. Those that have decided to go ahead with World Cup advertising – including, of course, the sponsors of the event – are treading carefully. They will have done huge amounts of research into whether their target audience is engaged with the social issues that the tournament has raised, and whether those sentiments are factored in when making purchasing decisions. Gartner research revealed that 64% of US consumers don’t make purchase decisions based on their social or political beliefs – which will have come as a relief to marketers planning their World Cup campaigns. And while some brands have chosen to address the social issues in their ads, most have chosen to focus on the football, the competition and the fans, with no reference to the host country.

    Media choice and the World Cup

    As revealed in our Inflation Report update, published in October, inflation for offline media channels has been especially high this year – and that’s particularly true for TV. Teamed with the fact that media prices are always higher in Q4 than in the rest of the year, and that many brands are looking to invest with less waste, online will have been a winner in this year’s World Cup. In the UK, for example, while UK companies will still spend a record £9.5 billion ($11.3 billion) in Q4, the amount spent on offline outlets will decline, according to a report from The AA and WARC. Investment in search will rise 7.3% year-on-year, while the amount spent on traditional TV forecasting will fall by 0.6%.

    World Cup advertising: an opportunity for all

    The 2022 World Cup is the most controversial yet and is happening within a challenging global economic context. Brands are right to approach it with caution. However, there is no denying – especially after a few years of more low-key sports events – that a World Cup is not an opportunity brands want to allow to pass by, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas. As one industry insider said, ‘there’s no other media moment that lasts a month and gets a billion views worldwide’.

    That said, there is an opportunity for those brands who choose to bypass the World Cup. Those brands who have invested more this quarter than they would normally in a difficult economic context may choose to reduce their spend during 2023, particularly in Q1. If this is the case, it represents an opportunity for their competitors to obtain higher share of voice and purchase media space last minute, which is often cheaper.

    So whether you’re playing this quarter or sitting it out until 2023, there’s an opportunity for everyone to be a winner.

  2. 2021: The summer of sports marketing

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    The summer of 2021 has been hotly anticipated by sports fans around the world, after most competitions were cancelled or postponed in 2020. Sport is unique in its ability to bring joy to billions of people across the world and, with fans hungrier than ever for the excitement of live sport, there are myriad opportunities this summer for advertisers to get involved and associate their brands and products with these positive, life-enhancing and emotional moments. 

    There are a number of famous competitions and tournaments taking place this summer, each of which will attract millions, if not billions of eyeballs. They include the UEFA European Football Championship (a.k.a the Euros), its Latin American equivalent Copa America, golf’s Ryder Cup, various international cricket tournaments, Wimbledon Tennis and, of course, the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Many athletes will be competing in front of fans for the first time in many months, which will, in turn, enhance the experience for audiences watching at home. 

    Boosting media pricing inflation

    Of course, sports sponsorship and advertising play a critical role in the marketing plans of many brands, and they will be relieved that sport has returned to our screens. As we explored in our Inflation Report earlier this year, media pricing was set to hit inflationary levels in much of the world in 2021; the busy sporting calendar will undoubtedly have contributed to the increase in pricing.  

    There has been a high appetite for sports sponsorship and advertising opportunities as people and brands embrace the positivity that sport delivers; while we are still very much battling the Covid-19 pandemic, celebrating competition and sporting achievement allows us to hope for a future in which the pandemic is behind us. Naturally, media vendors are breathing a sigh of relief that sporting fixtures are back and that advertiser appetite is so high. NBCUniversal, for example, has secured at least $1.25bn in ad revenue for its Olympics coverage – matching the amount secured in March 2020 before the Games were postponed, and surpassing the previous record of $1.2bn for the Rio Olympics in 2016.  

    Could smaller in-person audiences affect TV viewership figures?

    The market is buoyant and broadcasters are confident that sporting events will attract large audiences, particularly because travel restrictions are still in place in many countries, so fewer summer holidays could boost viewer numbers.  

    However, there are some questions about whether reduced in-stadium crowds will affect TV viewers’ experiences, and therefore audience numbers. Kantar found that two-thirds of US sports fans found sporting events without in-person fans during the pandemic less enjoyable than events at which there are live audiences. Could this lead to smaller-than-expected audiences? This is a particular worry for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, who have decided that only local fans will be admitted to the stands, which could affect the atmosphere. Indeed, there are some who doubt whether the Games should be going ahead at all given the ongoing pandemic.  

    What will sport coverage and sponsorship look like in 2021?

    The fact that more fans than ever are having to engage with sports from their homes has created opportunities for brands to enhance those experiences, particularly via mobile and digital platforms. Live sports broadcasting has been disrupted by digital, with the linear TV experience no longer the norm: 54% of global sports fans watch coverage or highlights online.  

    Connected TV comes to the fore

    With this in mind, it is perhaps unsurprising that connected TV is playing an increasing role in media companies’ coverage strategies. Peacock will be playing a key role in NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Olympic Games, showing some of the most prestigious events including gymnastics and track and field on its free, ad-supported tier and live men’s basketball on Peacock Premium – a move that NBCUniversal is positioning as a ‘test and learn’ strategy. The addition of Peacock to NBCUniversal’s Olympics strategy, as well as other digital platforms, has allowed different, smaller advertisers to get involved, rather than just the very biggest brands as was traditionally the case. Indeed, 80 of the 120 brands who have purchased spots around Olympic programming did not participate in the 2016 Games. 

    Discovery and Snap team up to deliver Olympics coverage to a younger audience

    Another interesting digital development around the Tokyo Olympics is Discovery and Snap’s partnership. The two companies have teamed up to bring Olympics content and coverage from Discovery+ and Eurosport to Snapchat’s Discover platform in the form of the ‘Eurosport Olympics’ daily show, which will reach Snapchat’s more youthful demographic. The partnership covers the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022. 

    Chinese brands are increasingly interested in the Euros

    Meanwhile, it’s been interesting to see increased interest from Asian brands, particularly Chinese advertisers, in the Euros. Electronics company Hisense was the first Chinese brand to sponsor the Euros in 2016, but three more signed partnerships for this year’s tournament: Vivo, Alibaba-affiliated Alipay, and ByteDance’s TikTok. These companies will all be seeking not only to reach new, overseas markets with their brands, but also to build global prestige for their consumers at home. 

    The summer of sport: a boost to recovery

    The summer of sport is bringing a boost to many who need it after an extremely challenging 18 months: brands looking to re-engage their consumers on a meaningful, emotional level; media vendors seeking to boost their bottom lines and, of course, fans who are desperate for good news stories. The plethora of sporting tournaments and competitions this year and the money being poured into them by brands and consumers will no doubt have a positive impact on the global economy. It will by no means be an ordinary year, and there will be challenges for all involved in sports and sports marketing, but these events mark the end of a dark period and the beginning of a brighter future – and what better opportunity is there for advertisers than to be associated with that? 

    Header image: Vasyl Shulga / Shutterstock

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