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No or little attendance, no problem: How brands derive social media ROI from physical events

With mega-events like World Cup 2022, Expo 2020, and others are just around the corner, major brands are looking at social media for ROI, aiming to digitize branding and marketing

Samsung is earning around $2 million of value equivalent coverage on social media Interest remains consistently high for Expo 2020 and exceeds interest in the Olympics 52% of consumers in the age group of 16-64 in the UAE preferred social media channels for brand research

Can mega-events in 2021 and 2022 attract the type of crowds we saw before COVID-19?

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? 

Regardless, not waiting to find out are brands looking at social media for ROI, looking to digitize branding and some are being very successful.  

Global market research Ipsos findings 

The Olympic Torch Relay started this past March 25th, announcing the first of many major upcoming mega-events, and bringing into light the level of ROI that brands can expect from sponsorships, in the context of uncertainty about in-person attendance. 

A data-driven approach using Ipsos’ advanced Synthesio tool extracted conversations on social media worldwide about the Tokyo Olympics 2020 (now 2021), looking at the extent to which brands actually feature in the data corpus.

To help understand the ROI for brands, one can estimate the earned media value that brands are receiving from their coverage across social and mainstream digital media, providing a dollar value equivalent for this coverage. That is an estimate of what they would have spent for the same coverage if this had been paid advertising.

The chart below examines the ROI brands sponsoring the Olympics have received year to date, and the earned media value from their coverage on social media. 

In the number one spot is Samsung earning around $2 million of value equivalent coverage on social media. This is followed by Coca Cola and AirBnB.

While brands may be nervous about committing to sponsorships for sporting and entertainment events, empty fields and stadiums have created new opportunities and more compelling ways for marketing digitally. 

In the case of Airbnb, the accommodation provider’s initial plan to launch a new suite of “Airbnb Olympian in-person Experiences” was dashed. Airbnb shifted these experiences to a virtual world helping them achieve a number 3 position for the ROI on their media investment versus the other brands that are sponsoring this year.

With Expo 2020 on the horizon in the UAE, we also took a look to see how the volume of conversation compared with the other mega event happening this year, the Olympics. Interest remains consistently high for Expo 2020 and exceeds interest in the Olympics, which puts the event in a good position versus alternatives from a sponsorship perspective.

Read: Rankings of top UAE and Saudi brands reflect efforts to improve customer perception

Read: Etisalat crowned strongest brand in the MEA region across all categories

Huawei 5G and Qatar’s 2022 World Cup 

On the sidelines of the Milipol Qatar summit, Huawei Middle East reaffirmed the company’s commitment to supporting the realization of the Qatar National Vision 2030 through its contribution to the country’s growing digital economy and major events like the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.  

When it comes to 5G in particular, Huawei has noted that Qatar and the GCC have been among the world’s first wave of 5G deployments.

These investments will demonstrate their value once again during FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, enabling brand-new experiences such as 8K live broadcasts and exciting in-home viewer experiences through augmented and virtual reality. 

And the process will likely be secure. Huawei has not had any major cybersecurity incidents while working with more than 500 telecom providers for nearly 20 years in 170 countries. 

Social media for brand research (UAE, Saudi) 

New research shows that the UAE, with a 99% penetration level, has topped the list of countries with the highest social media penetration in the world.

53% of consumers in the age group of 16-64 in the UAE turned to search engines for brand research, with those who preferred social media channels close behind at 52%, a report showed.

As many as 60% of internet users in Saudi between the ages of 16 and 64 preferred social media channels as their primary method for conducting brand research, ahead of 58% who use search engines, according to the report ‘Digital 2021’, jointly published by We Are Social and Hootsuite.

Net users in Saudi aged between 16 and 64 spend an average of 3 hours and 6 minutes a day on social media.

Saudi Arabians turned to social media for brand research more than any other medium last year for the first time in the country.

“We already knew that UAE and Saudi citizens love social media platforms, but it’s really interesting that internet users are increasingly turning to them for information when they’re thinking about buying things and on the hunt for brand info,” Akanksha Goel, managing director at Socialize, part of the We Are Social network, told Arabian Business.

“Not only will brands continue to increase investment in digital advertising, but we’ll also see more active investment in building their own databases to decrease reliance on platforms,” he added.

The report said 38% of the group that was surveyed stated using consumer reviews as the preferred source of brand information, making it the third preferred mode.

The three most popular social networks in order are YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram, according to the market study, done between January and December 2020.

“The average time spent online in Saudi Arabia each day is 7 hours and 45 minutes, while that in the UAE each day is just 21 minutes less than that of the Kingdom, putting both the countries ahead of the global average by around 30-45 minutes,” the report said.

Among the other key findings is that gaming is a huge and growing area in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with 91% and 86%, respectively of net users in the two countries playing video games on any device.

Online shopping in the two Gulf countries also saw a massive rise last year, with the UAE witnessing an annual growth of 38% and Saudi at 28%, according to the same report.