Tag Archive: world cup

  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. Media audits: the big four or specialists?

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    In an increasingly complex media landscape, media audits are becoming ever more important; should advertisers choose one of the ‘big four’ firms or a smaller media specialist to carry out their audits?

    The media audit – understanding efficiency and transparency in media activity

    In an increasingly digital and competitive world, where brands are concerned about transparency and about the effectiveness of every single dollar invested in advertising, the media audit is a very important tool in the CMO’s toolbox. Not only does it help advertisers to ensure that their agency partner(s) are delivering on their marketing and business objectives in the most efficient and transparent way possible, but it also enables them to identify errors and troubleshoot effectively: particularly crucial in an age of automated buying.

    Choosing a media auditor

    Once an advertiser has decided that they are going to carry out a media audit with their media agency partner or partners and established the KPIs of the audit, the next step is to select the auditor themselves. The options here are not myriad – this is not a huge industry – but they can be more or less divided into two camps – big generalists, or smaller specialists. The former, comprising the ‘big four’ audit firms – KPMG, EY, PwC and Deloitte – carry out audits across many industries for blue chip clients across the world, and are often chosen by clients for their undoubted auditing and accountancy experience, or because they have successfully audited another part of the company. The other camp comprises the smaller specialists, among whom we at ECI count ourselves. While these specialists do not boast the vast scale of the Big Four, there is huge value in having media specialists audit media activity.

    The big four versus the specialists

    In 2016, Sir Martin Sorrell urged advertisers to choose one of the Big Four to carry out their media audit, largely because they are chartered accountancy firms and are therefore subject to regulation. Sorrell said that he was concerned about giving specialist media auditors access to his group’s privileged information, given that they ‘lack professional rules and regulations’. This is a view

    commonly held by media agencies, an unkind interpretation of which is that they are nervous of having their activity audited by media specialists – some of whom may have even worked agency-side and know which stones to turn. In any case, we are convinced that, in an industry renowned for complexity that increases by the day, it can only be to an advertiser’s advantage to have experienced media practitioners examining and analysing agency practices – because they do indeed know what they are looking for.

    Impartiality issues

    In the wider business world, the big four are having to answer big questions about their work, having been involved in the auditing of failing or failed businesses such as Carillion in the UK, which went into liquidation earlier this year. Their impartiality has also on many occasions been called into question; PwC and Deloitte’s creative offerings (PwC Digital Services and Deloitte Digital respectively) are among the largest creative agencies in the world, putting them directly into competition with the holding companies that own the very agencies they are being hired to audit. Meanwhile, Accenture – not one of the Big Four but similar in offering and scale – has recently launched its programmatic offering, negating, in our view, impartiality for its audit function: this is indicative of a wider industry trend.

    In the end, the choice is of course up to the advertiser themselves, who should make their decision based on their specific needs and preferences. The key is to ensure you study the media agency contract carefully and agree on the scope of the audit with both the agency and the chosen auditor. Ultimately, it is about ensuring that every media dollar is used as effectively and efficiently as possible in order to drive higher media value.

    Thumbnail image: chase4concept/Shutterstock.com

  3. The Digital World Cup

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    There are few events that unite audiences like the FIFA World Cup. The passion, excitement and anguish evoked by the beautiful game crescendos for one month every four years, and this year fans from Poland to Peru and Saudi Arabia to Senegal have turned their attention to Russia, pinning their hopes on their national team and praying that this will be their year: the fans of all but one country will have those dreams dashed. Even Americans, whose national team failed to qualify and who are traditionally less interested in soccer, are still gripped by the drama that unfolds daily.

    Sports audiences are turning their attention towards digital channels

    Of course, such focus and emotion makes the World Cup fertile ground for brands who are looking to coherently engage a global audience. Once, TV was the obvious choice of channel for these brands, who would plough millions upon millions of dollars into sponsorship, premium TV spots and experiential activity. However, the increased adoption of digital and social media in recent years has forced advertisers to take a step back and consider how to best to reach those who have migrated away from TV: while 62% of the 3.2bn-strong audience still plan to watch the games on TV, 30% will stream them online – a figure that increases in developing countries and likely in countries with a dramatic time difference to Russia. Over half of the TV viewers will use social media while they are watching. Some had feared that the all-important millennials were drifting away from sport in general but, as this McKinsey study found, they are in fact simply fragmenting their viewing habits, streaming games and using social media to check highlights, scores and news. This is backed up by a Google study which shows that there has been a 90% increase in searches for highlights videos in the last year. This is compounded by the fact that many social platforms are becoming increasingly video-heavy – see Instagram’s recent announcement that it will allow users to post videos of up to 60 minutes.

    TV is losing broadcasting rights as well as audiences to tech giants

    All this is happening against a backdrop of an equally seismic shift in the live sports landscape: the buying up of broadcast rights for sporting events by non-traditional entities such as telco companies and even tech giants such as Amazon, is having a profound effect on traditional broadcasters and, by extension, on advertisers. Not only do the broadcasters lose viewership during the sporting events, but also afterwards as they lose the opportunity to market for future programming to the large sporting audience: smaller viewership means fewer eyeballs on ads. At the same time, the new players like Amazon finance the purchase of their rights through means other than ads, for example subscription fees, thereby removing a huge message distribution opportunity for advertisers. This means that the pricing of what remains increases, particularly around high-value programming.


    So, what does this all mean for marketers who might previously have relied on international sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympic Games to reach the often elusive younger male audience, as well as the others who only engage with sport every few years?

    Advertisers must respond by adapting and innovating

    The answer is, as so often, to follow the consumer and to innovate. It goes without saying that advertisers need to look at allocating a large proportion of their budget to digital channels; however, they should also be looking for ways to enhance the enjoyment of the event for consumers and give them what they want by creating exciting new products for added value. We know that millennials have short attention spans thanks to the huge range of options available to them, so products such as fun contests, easily shareable gossip and opinions and ‘whip-around’ highlights could be great ways to engage with them and hold their attention.

    Sporting influencers are a huge opportunity

    Sport by its very nature creates influencers with huge followings: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo drove 570m social engagements between January and May this year, while Neymar drove nearly 300m (both figures from Nielsen). Savvy brands are capitalising on these figures: McDonald’s in Brazil incorporated Neymar and his Twitter activity into their #prepara World Cup campaign, while Vodafone has not only featured Egyptian Mohamed Salah in their World Cup activity, but harnessed his social following as well. Visa’s global campaign features six influencers, most notably Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimović and makes the most of his innate charm and popularity.

    TV is still important – but it no longer monopolises audiences

    TV is by no means dead and still commands the lion’s share of audiences for live sporting events, including for major ones such as the World Cup and the Olympics. However, advertisers need to be mindful that the trend of audience migration to more digital viewing behaviour shows no sign of abating, and should respond accordingly.

    Thumbnail image: Pasko Maksim/Shutterstock.com

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