Ad Age: Delivering a World Cup Sponsorship in Today's Media Landscape
I was born and raised in Argentina – fútbol country. And as such, the World Cup is something you can't avoid. We would (and we still) wait patiently for the largest sporting event in the world to kick off every four years. You have likely heard the stats, but to give you some context – in 2010, at least 3.2 billion people watched the World Cup around the world. That's roughly 46 percent of the global population! There are very few media events of this magnitude left, where people still gather around the TV – and even the radio in some rural areas – to watch their country's greatest players and athletes battle it out on the field on behalf of their countrymen.
Outside of the competition itself, two of the biggest components that make it possible, media and advertising, have changed profoundly since I watched my first World Cup in 1982. While still requiring major coordination, marketers only had a few options back then: TV, print, out-of-home, and radio. Today any brand – official sponsor or not – has the ability to join the bandwagon across a multitude of media options. And even though the teams haven't walked on the field yet, some of the world's biggest brands have already been battling it out on digital screens.
So I cannot help but wonder how global brands like Coke, Adidas, McDonald's and any of the official sponsors planning a campaign of such magnitude approach this event. How can a brand effectively produce a campaign where its products might actually traverse ALL of the 204 countries where the World Cup will be broadcasted, across all media channels, and audiences?
To triumph at such scale certainly requires intense coordination and intelligence by brands and agencies – everything from managing multinational operations to turning local data into global action. The beginning is certainly all about logistics and balancing global goals with local markets.
But beyond the usual suspects – dialect, cultural sensitivities, local laws and regulations – today's brands must focus on understanding which touchpoints drive engagement for each market. Which channel – TV, mobile, radio, social, etc. – or combination of channels holds weight in each country? And most critically, since we can no longer separate the message from the technology it is delivered on, which devices are used in local markets? Are consumers in South Africa on feature phones or smartphones? Will Italians use a second screen while they watch a match?
Then there is the question of which content is relevant for which region. Most of my fellow Argentinians would have a strong, positive reaction to a campaign featuring Diego Maradona. Most Americans – not anywhere near as heavily invested in football/soccer – might even be bored, asking their buddies, "Who is this guy?" (Hear the collective gasp of Argentinians everywhere.) In other words, in one region the content could easily go viral, but in another it would likely fall flat. The amount of money you spent on both regions could be equal, but guess where you got more out of your media dollars?
Then there is the sharing of that content, which is a phenomenon all marketers are looking to crack the code for all around the world. There are hundreds of tools that consumers use to absorb their content from that device. Since content is the key to campaigns in today's media landscape (we'll get into that shortly), knowing how and where to deliver that campaign before you start is critical. Do Koreans share through Facebook, or do they prefer Cyworld?
Although the Super Bowl has been able to evolve each year with new mediums and content sharing tools, this year's World Cup will be a new playing field for advertisers by way of touchpoints – many of them didn't even exist at the last games in 2010! Even FIFA will have an official hashtag for the first time. Will any brand manage to score another Super Bowl Oreo moment?
What World Cup advertisers should have learned from modern "campaigns" like Oreo's is that content is still king. But if that isn't enough proof for you, just take a look at the views and shares for this campaign, or this one, and you can see the power of reaching peoples' hearts. These campaigns are proof that consumers – all of us – don't hate advertising, we simply just don't like bad creative. In the era of big data and calculated decisions, compelling creative can propel your campaign to the world stage for maximum exposure. And the payoffs seem to be well worth it: a beautiful campaign could transform a brand into a worldwide powerhouse.
All in all, Brazil 2014 will be a completely new experience for fans around the world given the media tools at our fingertips today. On the same token, it is also a whole new game for marketers and established brands, who may even see their efforts get trumped by newcomers. So who will take gold home? We will find out on July 13. I know I'll be watching.