Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

World Cup: why it’s all kicking off for advertisers this Q4

by Simon Akers, CEO of Archmon and NDA columnist

So football fan or not, you will know that this year is a real first for the FIFA World Cup, with a winter tournament from mid November- Mid December to enable the desert-dominated Qatar to be hospitable enough to host the tournaments in the heat. But for advertisers in the western world of course it’s the double jeopardy of competing for attention; it is happening in the midst of the peak Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas build-up. 

The most congested time for getting a cut of the audience just got a little busier – football fans engaging with the tournament, and more importantly, the wider fairweather fan population also engaging, and with kick offs throughout the day, we are looking at a busy time of marketing moments, always-on ad streams and content built around the tournament to maximise contextual buys. More people engaging in more things and more of the time.

The Background Insight

In a World Cup insights deck from the Ozone project – ‘On top of the world cup 2022’ – there are some interesting insights into the period. Especially around the way context and media from publishers evolves: 

‘The significance of international tournament football to both die-hard and fair-weather fans is clear – their numbers swell and they read more – and our premium publishers respond with more in-depth build up, live match reports and detailed post-match analysis.’

Fair, and it goes on to add some interesting insights. Huge 3 figure percentage increases on page views and audiences broadened. More eyeballs are in the pre-game parts in early stages then later on (assuming a semi-final or final position, there is huge readership after the fact).

However the report also goes on to make certain statistical assumptions that are a little trickier to confirm. For example, I’m not convinced you can effectively compare Euros in a delayed summer tournament (by a year of course because of Covid-19) to an overseas winter tournament. It’s a first for the Middle-East too, so much conjecture on what the vibe will be (or rather not be). Also the category interplay e.g. womens clothing content searches going up too at the same time may be attributed to seasonal change rather than the cultural moment of the World Cup. Time will tell. Will watching the finals drive a consumer need for a new 50” Ultra 4k tv or a new winter coat? There is of course another conversation on sponsorship impact and its attribution; the point being that the prep for this big media buying match is a little different to before

Firstly, Plan firm for the known knowns  – and anticipate ‘potential’ outcomes

In marketing strategy there is often talk of whittling down to the known-knowns and the known-unknowns – so essentially we plan what is in our control. We know Black Friday and Cyber Monday are key commerce cornerstones of the Gregorian calendar and are not going anywhere for the foreseeable few years anyway. The only question marks are around how long beforehand brands will make a noise about it. However given the last 2 years of anomalous trading and the current economic uncertainty, I would sensibly envisage that getting ahead of the noise and being front of mind early and being dragged out (before media costs likely spike for the tournament) is likely a recommended practice.

However – In terms of other biggie, the aforementioned tournament. We also have the known known of the tournament – that is it. We know there is a tournament then. That is a fact.

The known-unknown is how well the home nations will do. There is then the factor nobody has considered (accept journalists and and my Football WhatsApp group), the home nations may just not be very good!

It hurts writing this and I for one hope I eat my words. Since 2016 we have had the benefit of the Home Nations putting in a hell of a shift in the international tournaments, and with it increased national interest and eyeballs. England of course notably reaching the Euros final last year and the semis of the last world cup 4 years ago, with Wales in Semis in 2016 and last 16 last time out, and the Scots in last year’s tournament as well.

This year, Southgate’s young hopefuls have not exactly been setting the world alight, barely scoring any goals from open play in the exhibition-esque Nations League tournament, with a seeming inability to defend our net. One fears momentum has been lost, and with Wales heralding their long awaited return to the World stage. They come into it with a younger side with star man Gareth Bale in his career twilight.

But we are not here to place a betting accumulator, we are here to share the point of it being an unknown, and simply that We know that WE DON’T KNOW what is going to happen. So how can you plan?

Now you know how things are going – Next…THINK IF NECESSARY FOR YOU

My brilliant comms-planning partner, colleague and collaborator Nina Franck wrote in her monthly column in the Media Leader about this earlier in the year, and posed the 2 biggest questions to ask yourself and your business when planning for the World Cup:

Is the World Cup relevant to me? Do I have cultural permission to advertise in and around the World Cup? It is worth thinking about here, and as I have said before about the over-content-calendarisation – do you really need to be there against it – are you really going to upset your audience if you do not reference it? Do they really have to score a deal? How do you interplay with football and its fanbase? That all said, if there is an incremental male-skewed audience to tap into, it may be worth addressing after all.

The other question she poses is How relevant is Christmas to my product and my sales across the whole year? This should inform whether you are needing/relying on the spike of the sales season (some do) and that should potentially eradicate advertising about/addressing the football. If you are steady with consistent sales number through the year however then it could well be a performance driving answer!

Nina also writes in article about the need to plan ahead and secure inventory ahead of time – especially on channels like TV & Print. But here where we are concerned with digital media there is still a chance to enter the party late on. 

However – we all have a choice. Just because you can does it mean you should? Is it critical that you are there for every moment? Is Black Friday/Cyber Monday the time to promote through retail media? I’d say do not be beguiled by the upsurge of conversation though. According to media buying behemoth GroupM,  “Global retail media will reach $101 BILLION in 2022. This amounts to 18% of global digital advertising and 11% of total advertising. We expect retail media advertising to increase roughly 60% by 2027”. Is a contextual buy on sports content really going to help? Do you even need to promote Black Friday?

Bottom line digital planners – don’t get carried away though, see how it goes for sure. Don’t let the tail wag the dog!

So there is a bit of see-how-it-goes here. But overall, if you know your priorities and your business values and goals, you can your battles, pick a side and train as best you can for the big kick-off!

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