Spain has emerged as world champions and the excitement is over for another four years. 32 teams battled it out in South Africa for World Cup glory, but the game wasn’t just being played on the pitch; brands went head-to-head in a fiercely contested online marketing battle.

From betting and beer to travel to TVs, who were the real winners and losers?

In the back of the net

In tribute to John Motson, here are some interesting World Cup search stats:

  • Traffic to news sites on June 11th reached over 12m visitors per minute globally. The day's traffic busted the previous record of 8.5m visitors per minute, which was set when Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential election in 2008.
  • According to AdTech, UK traffic dropped by a whopping 20% during England matches. However, as soon as the matches were over, traffic rose, with AdTech serving 10% more banner ads than normal.
  • There was a 20-fold increase in the number of searches for ‘Vuvuzela’ between the 5th and 19th June.
  • During the week commencing the 14th June, there were five times more searches for ‘Vuvuzela’ than there were for ‘Wayne Rooney’, England’s most searched for player.
  • Twitter set a new tweet record during Japan's 3-1 victory over Denmark. When the referee blew the final whistle, Twitter recorded 3,283 tweets per second.

Official Sponsorship vs. ‘Ambush Marketing’

 Many brands saw huge spikes in searches and traffic around their terms, without having spent millions on official sponsorship. In fact, the brands that sponsored individual teams benefited the most.

Qantas, official airline for the Australian team, saw searches increase by 155% between the 26th June and 3rd July, whilst Carlsberg, official sponsors of the England team was the third best performing brand for the week ending 12 June.

The real winners were the companies like Bavaria beer who used less conventional methods of marketing their products. Bavaria beer supposedly dressed 36 blondes in bright Orange mini-dresses at the Holland-Denmark game. After the story broke, the Bavaria beer website become the fifth most visited beer website in the UK.

Piggybacking on World Cup keywords

 What was perhaps most surprising was the failure of brands to link their activity to key online searches. Take Adidas for example. They produced the controversial new Jabulani World Cup match ball. But they weren’t bidding on the term, and only appeared on page two of the organic search results.

The phrases 'world cup 2010' and 'soccer world cup' were the most popular searches during the competition. You would be forgiven for thinking that advertisers would be falling over themselves to bid on these keywords to profit from the huge spikes in searches. Not so.

The majority of companies failed to make the most of unique opportunities to link their brands with key world cup search terms

What lessons did we learn?

 I’ve put together some thoughts on what could have been done by brands and businesses that wanted to get the maximum exposure during the World Cup:

  1. Bidding on all related keywords:  bidding on ‘soccer world cup’, ‘world cup 2010’ and ‘world cup 2010 fixtures’ and targeting your ads would have been a strong tactic.
  2. Using the Google Display Network: there were millions of people reading World Cup news and stories on the display network. By showing ads on the display network you could have opened your business up to millions of potential new users.
  3. Using Mobile Search: 19m people now use mobile internet every month. One of the key ways that people find information on their mobile is through paid search, which is predicted to see 25% year-on-year growth.
  4. Monitoring the trends and emerging searches:  using all the available keyword tools, including HitWise, Google Ad Planner, Insights For Search and Google Trends, look for keywords that are trending and start bidding on them.
  5. Learn these lessons for next time – Wimbledon has been and gone, and yet again, no one took full advantage of the competition and failed to bid on the key search terms, including ‘wimbledon’, ‘longest game wimbledon’ and ‘andy murray’.

Globally trusted brands are failing to make the most of these opportunities. If nothing else, doesn’t this teach us that we can turn any event into an opportunity, no matter what your business?

Ian Howie

Published 15 July, 2010 by Ian Howie

Ian Howie is Chief Technology Officer at 1upDigital and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments (6)

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I disagree with your first 'conclusion'. I cant think of any reason I would want to divert people searching for 'world cup 2010' to my website, or indeed, pay for the privilege.

Relevance and context mean your advice would only serve to expend my budget in a useless way.

I think your advice is bad as it can only be relevant to small minority of organisations who may have some tenuous link to football.

about 8 years ago

Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan, Senior Copywriter at Koozai

There have been quite a few round-ups of World Cup advertising winners and losers; but a lot of the statistics seem to be very general.

For instance, whilst it is interesting to see that there was more traffic at certain times and record numbers of tweets, that is unlikely to have a major impact on most online businesses.Clicks are just clicks, at the end of the day it's the sales that really matter.

For instance, I might see an interesting link to Carlsberg, follow it, find there isn't anything of use there and scarper. Of course all mass-advertising is about creating a strong brand identity and improving visibility, but without sales figures it's difficult to gauge genuine success.

You make a good point about mobile advertising. Unfortunately though, it is probably best to mention that your website should be compatible for mobile's first. Otherwise paying for mobile PPC could be an expensive waste of time. In four years time though I'm sure this will be a much more competitive market.

Bidding on terms like World Cup can be hazardous though. FIFA set aside numerous terms for official sponsors only, so small businesses trying to cash in might struggle to get in on the act. And I'm inclined to agree with Mildew with regards to going after phrases with little or no relevance to what you actually do; good for traffic, poor for your conversion rate and coffers.

Interesting read nonetheless, thanks for putting this together.

about 8 years ago


Ian Howie

Stephen, Some excellent points - I agree should check that your site works with on mobile browsers before start planning a mobile campaign, Alex - nice piece, London 2012 and Brazil 2014 take note.

about 8 years ago


Bulent Guneyli

I also have to disagree with your first conclusion. Any keywords that contain ‘soccer world cup’ or ‘world cup 2010’ are trademarks of FIFA and could not be used without FIFA's consent. Therefore you can't use those terms. You should have known this.

almost 8 years ago


Andrew Nattan

Not surprising that traffic dropped off and spiked during games, although the percentages are larger than I'd have expected. I wonder what the difference was between evening and afternoon games?

almost 8 years ago

Ian Howie

Ian Howie, CTO at 1upDigital

Hi Bulent, Good point you can't use World Cup 2010 or 2014 in Ad copy unless you get an exception, however you can bid on World Cup keywords. Sorry if this wasn't made clear.

almost 8 years ago

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