World Cup Marketing Headbutt: Are Sponsorships a Great Opportunity or Not?

Football players collide

By Brian Ward—In the last issue of The Measurement Advisor, I wrote an article on the World Cup, wondering just how good a marketing opportunity it is. What I found was that sponsoring the World Cup doesn’t result in automatic success. A lot of factors go into it: Whether or not your target audience was watching, how they were following the game, if a brand has a consistent presence in the game, etc. Plus, you also have the randomness of the internet, which makes one cat video go viral while an identical one is left in the briny depths.

Recently, I found this article in MediaPost—“World Cup winners scored with real-time relevance”—that gives a far more rosy view of World Cup sponsorship success. It’s quite biased, in my opinion, here’s why:

1. All the data comes from Omnicom Media Group (OMG).

OMG, a media services company, supplies all the research for the article. It provides advertising and marketing services to corporations and brands. So OMG has a stake in the success of brands advertising in the World Cup. Particularly if those brands are OMG clients, or ones that OMG wants to be clients.

OMG lays out some techniques to be a successful sponsor of the World Cup, such as use of spontaneous hashtags and separate SM accounts. What it doesn’t bring up is that these tactics will only work under certain conditions for certain brands. It talks about how successful brands were able to reach their target audiences, but doesn’t mention that a brand’s target audience may just not be watching the game.

Let’s be honest. Do we trust OMG’s research? OMG found that the World Cup is a large marketing opportunity. That’s a lot like Ben & Jerry’s saying that studies have found ice cream is good for your health. I happen to like Ben & Jerry’s, but I wouldn’t take their findings on the benefits of ice cream seriously. Likewise OMG’s announcement that anyone can be successful at the World Cup, as long as they have a large, comprehensive marketing plan.

2. It neglects to mention the fast-fading benefits of World Cup marketing.

One awkward thing about World Cup sponsorships is that people start forgetting that you’re a sponsor before the Cup’s even over.  A study done by Echo Research after the 2010 World Cup found the most recognized sponsor was correctly remembered by less than half (48%) of the 1,002 Brits interviewed. Adidas, one of the most successful FIFA sponsors, saw recognition drop 26% between the start of this year’s tournament and the end. The MediaPost article conveniently neglects to mention this. To its credit, the OMG spokesperson does obliquely reference the fact that keeping World Cup followers after the games is hard to do.

OMG suggests keeping up your post-Cup followership by getting involved with soccer. Unfortunately, studies show that the brands that do the best at the Cup are ones that already have a presence in soccer.

Part of the problem here is that OMG’s strategy is to just start you off by sponsoring the World Cup and see if that works. So here’s my marketing plan: A few years before the next Cup, you start sponsorships at the club or national level of soccer. You build up a presence in soccer and find out if it’s producing results. Your company gained 1,000 new followers from its involvement in club soccer? Great. Your company gained 5 followers from its involvement? At least you didn’t spend millions on the World Cup. Now, if you do decide to go into the World Cup and your campaign is a success, then you already have a marketing plan in place for afterwards. And even if the World Cup doesn’t pan out the way you want it to, at least you still keep the followers you had going in.

3. The number of social media interactions about the game is only relevant if they’re in your target audience.

As we discussed in our previous article, the number of interactions only matter if they involve people in your target audience. If your audience is not following the Cup then you’re wasting your time and money. You’re also wasting your time if they’re getting their information about the game in a way you can’t reach.

The article mentions that Adidas and Nike were two of the most successful brands at the World Cup. What do they have in common? They’re both sportswear companies taking part in a sporting competition. So, their success wasn’t simply because they sponsored the World Cup. It was because their target demographic—people interested in sports—was watching the game.

Note that the article didn’t mention Yingli Solar, which spent $17.5 million to be a sponsor and got 2,782 mentions for their money ($6,290 per mention). What was their problem? Perhaps people in the market for alternative energy sources were not watching the game. Maybe they were too preoccupied with the game to think about solar panels for their homes. ∞


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