With the increased adoption of digital and social media over the years, advertisers have had to take a step back to reconsider their approach to World Cup advertising.
With the rise in the number of platforms available for viewing the international championship, viewership has become fragmented, which in turn makes it much harder for advertisers to try and reach as much of their demographic as possible.
Regionally, Coca-Cola is the sponsor of the Saudi team. Yet, this traditional form of branding won’t be enough to capture a majority of the Arab audience, as many countries in the region are catching up with the rest of the world in terms of online media and social media usage.
So, how have advertisers been trying to keep up?
Online viewing on the rise
62% of internet users worldwide plan to watch World Cup matches on TV, while a quarter plan to watch online, according to an Ipsos study. 44% of internet users in Saudi are tuning in online.
The move to online viewing helps explain why this year’s tournament brought in $179 million less sponsorship revenue than the last one, and budgets for future tournaments will grow at a slower pace, said Tim Part, senior consultant at strategy agency MTM Sport.
Social media surge transforms advertiser strategies
According to We Are Social, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the highest social media penetration percentages in the world. With such a high amount of social media usage, advertisers need to broaden their strategies to cover all these platforms.
More than 51% of fans watching World Cup matches on TV will use social media, while half will chat to or message acquaintances as they watch, according to a Global Web Index study. This emergence of minute and ever-changing trends and opinions with fans has led advertisers to dole out their cash gradually and accordingly, compared to how budgets and campaigns would traditionally be planned ahead of time and pre the World Cup opener. Brands are watching and adapting constantly to keep up to date with fans’ expectations.
Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting and director of global intelligence at Zenith said, “The real boost in media spending around the World Cup happened after the tournament started rather than before.”
Brands have been adapting to the developing social media environment. In 2017, Mobily ran a national filter for the Al Nassr v Al Hilal Crown Cup semifinal, giving Snapchatters the opportunity to predict the final score and share it with their friends. The national filter had over 90 million views, reaching over 7.6 million unique Snapchatters.
With approximately 74% of Saudi Snapchatters using their mobile phone whilst watching sports, and 55% using Snapchat at football stadiums, according the GlobalWebIndex and a UK Greenberg Strategy study respectively, it is clear that ME citizens put great emphasis on their social media usage.
Influencers the way to go?
On the other side of the spectrum, star players such as Cristiano Ronaldo are taking to social networks to directly connect with their fans, of which Ronaldo has 73.9 million. Brands are looking to capitalize on this.
Vodafone, Mohamed Salah’s official sponsor, has not only launched a local campaign featuring billboards, TV ads, and other traditional ad mediums but has also been utilizing social media campaigns with Salah and his own social media channels at their forefront. His Twitter channel currently has 6.39 million followers.
McDonald’s Brazil incorporated Neymar and his Twitter handle in their own Twitter campaign, hashtagged #Prepara (prepare). Tying their brand not only to Neymar as a face, but rather to his social media account led to a very personalized form of advertising that is resonating with fans.
Visa launched a global campaign revolving around 6 influencers, most prominently of those being famed Swedish footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović. The campaign focused on inclusivity and making sure everyone could enjoy the World Cup even if they couldn’t attend it. The campaign utilized the influencers’ personal charm and relatability as a launch pad for their brand.