Sponsorship is brilliant for many reasons;  supporting a great cause or event, building awareness of your brand with a new audience and changing opinions of your brand through affiliation.

When it comes to something as big as the World Cup, the link between sponsors and the main event can appear tenuous until you’re introduced to the “concept” behind the relationship through brand messaging.

For example, Coca Cola’s desire for people to celebrate goals with a beverage or McDonald’s customers being compelled to avoid or discuss the games in its diners during the tournament. 

However, communicating these concepts is no longer a mere media-buying activity. International brands now have their social media channels to help them along the way…

As part of an upcoming report, I assisted our Senior Research and Insights Analyst Dominic Parker by taking a look at what brands were doing within social media in order to exploit their relationship with the World Cup. I was genuinely surprised at a lot of what was and, just as importantly, was not happening in social.

The graph below demonstrates Facebook activity by active international brands who sponsored the World Cup over a two week period covering the beginning of the event (4th to 20th June 2010). The X axis represents the number of World Cup related status updates published during this time and the Y axis the amount of fan engagement (Comments and Likes) of World Cup v Non-World Cup related status updates during this time.

The higher up the Y axis, the more fans engaged with World Cup related updates, compared with non-World Cup related updates. The top line of brands engaged solely on the subject of the World Cup during this time. The size of the bubbles denotes the number of fans a brand has. 

(Click on image for a larger version)

You can clearly see here that many large brands are sitting in the bottom left hand corner of the table, meaning that they didn’t update their Facebook page with news of World Cup related activity and therefore didn’t receive any engagement from their large Facebook following.

This is symptomatic of a continuing trend within companies of operating in silos when it comes to online activity. Why spend millions on display advertising and creative if you’re not going to make the most of it online?

Working with the example of Facebook, why not post adverts as videos? Why not let people know about competitions you’re involved with even if they’re not taking place on Facebook? Why not just shout from the rooftops that you’re contributing to one of the biggest sporting events in the world? I’m by no means saying ram it down people’s throats, but if you have exclusive content and assets why wouldn’t you share them? 

Every brand marketing campaign these days should think about social media’s role within it as a given. Campaigns peak people’s interest and encourage consumers to engage with companies on Facebook and other branded online spaces. The more people you encourage to Like, Follow or Subscribe to your content, the larger the audience you will have to talk to you when it comes to your next campaign. These are all basic points that many of you will be rolling your eyes at but when you look at working examples from large brands, they are often missed.

This would be a step up from simply “broadcasting” to customers, analysis of customer comments allows brands to utilise their online customer base as a focus group. Think about what that could save a company! 

Making friends with customers in social media might be a struggle for some, but for those who’ve got the people there ready and waiting, the opportunity for social as a broadcast, engagement and insights tool is there to be grabbed. For some brands the World Cup is an opportunity missed, but it should also be a lesson learnt.

The data used to inform this blog post is from the iCrossing report UK Search & Social Media During the World Cup 2010