Real-time aplenty

Coca-Cola’s head of assets and experiential, Paul Dwan, spoke at a recent ESPN discussion of connected brands and fans around the World Cup.

According to Dwan: 

In real-time, there were 2.3bn consumers engaging with the World Cup in 2010. This year, it’ll be more like 3bn. The biggest difference will be the need to be real-time rather than pre-planned.

Being real-time has many connotations. Amongst them:

1. Reacting quickly to news

This applies to companies that are sponsoring footballers or teams, or those wanting to associate themselves with success. Agile marketing in the spirit of Oreo – who can be quickest to celebrate a freak occurence, an emerging or peaking meme, or a great result or goal?

2. Interacting with communities on social media

Giving fans that touchy feely treatment rather than broadcasting the same message to everyone. In other words, starting conversations and owning them.

3. Making sure paid media approaches or merchandising remain optimised

Nothing increases shirt sales like England getting to the next round. Making sure you’re ready as a retailer is vital.

4. Adapting a campaign as the tournament goes on

If not dependant on news, perhaps your company will react to consumer feedback and campaign performance. Coca Cola learned this lesson from London 2012 as it adapted the content of its Beat TV programme, broadcast from its website. 

Social media played a big role in promoting the show and real-time feedback was gained in order to alter the format for future episodes.

According to Christy Amador of Coca Cola, the final shows in the series were unrecognisable from the first ones, as they had changed so much in response to viewer comments.

Coca Cola’s Beat TV show was one London 2012 example of a campaign adapting to consumer feedback in near real-time.

                Coca Cola move to the beat 

If companies are perceived as slow, this can cause substantial reputational damage. NBC faced a lot of criticism for delaying broadcast of London 2012 in the US as viewers wanted to watch it live.

Timeliness is increasingly important online, with live and watch-again (immediately) services the norm. 

Patricio Robles did play devil’s advocate and suggest NBC’s delay may have increased viewing figures, but on the whole I think working quickly will pay off for companies during the World Cup.

Content aplenty

More user generated content, more web content, more mobile content.


Having talked about real-time let’s move on to content and Adidas’ newsroom.

Michael Hewitt covered this at the beginning of this month. Sports brands are creating digital newsrooms to enhance their ability to respond quickly and in a manner that’s relevant to their products and consumers. Adidas will be creating newsrooms to enhance its brands over the next 12 months.

Michael mentioned Adidas’ use of #takethestage and #stagetaken before and after the Olympics. Owning stories through content, even if simply with images, will increase sharing and brand awareness.

With Adidas sponsoring eight teams in the World Cup, the brand will have lots to talk about. Getting it right requires bigger teams and more resources, with the concomitant ability to make quick decisions.



Imagery obviously represents a big part of shared content in sport. Since the last World Cup, rich media has been prioritised on social media, notably on Twitter where it now appears in stream.

I’ve already seen images such as the one below of Brazil’s World Cup aeroplane, which are set to be shared thousands of times. Brands that can find the best images might see the most sharing, so social is this World Cup set to be.

Live content

Cadbury and its activity during London 2012 is a good example of the confluence of content, social media and real-time marketing that we might see during the World Cup.

Cadbury held a series of Hangouts in the lead up to the Olympics, featuring Q&As with Olympic athletes, brand ambassadors and chocolate connoisseurs. This attracted over 150,000 new followers to its Google+ page.

User generated content

Will we see lots of this at the World Cup?

Hyundai has already started the ball rolling (no pun intended), giving away seven pairs of World Cup tickets to those that can create the best video clip of their own goal celebration.

The car brand partnered with a popular YouTube channel, Copa90, and users submitted via the brand’s Facebook page. The video has had around 200,000 views on YouTube to date but judging by a quick search on the associated hashtag, there hasn’t been an abundance of entries. Below is an example of one of the better ones.

Whilst the public is more prepared than ever to get involved, brands should be making competitions as easy to enter as possible, whilst still providing the brand with valuable content. Photographs are probably a better bet.

In other sectors, we’ve seen campaigns such as Cancer Research’s #nomakeupselfie catching on so quickly because of the ease at which users can generate content and then share it.

Social media aplenty

According to Voxburner’s latest research surveying more than a thousand 16-24 year olds in the UK, if not watching a game, 20% of respondents would check Twitter for information. 

Although this is lower than the 61% that are likely to visit websites such as Sky Sports, FIFA or BBC, it is still a significant number of people from a key demographic for advertisers. As previously mentioned, Twitter has twice the users it did at the last World Cup and one expects this to be a key battleground for brands.

Facebook, however, was the top traffic referral source during the last Olympics, after search. Signs indicate that Facebook could be out-and-out first for traffic referral this year. From late 2013, Facebook has been the main traffic referrer to content online.

Social referral traffic to LOCOG’s website during London 2012. I’d expect significant increases on these numbers for the FIFA site during World Cup 2014, particularly from Facebook.

referral traffic social during London 2012

The global nature of the World Cup, and many of the club teams sending players to tournament, lends big opportunities to appeal to a very broad market.

Manchester City FC has already started with some fairly low-fi but successful attempts to capitalise. The club is searching for a Manchester City fan from each nation represented in the World Cup, for its ‘fan of the day‘ feature.

Expect more of this kind of social and mutinational engagement from many big sporting brands.

mcfc world cup 'fan of the day'

Mobile aplenty

Again, looking back at London 2012 as a barometer for World Cup 2014, VG mobile (the mobile arm of Verdens Gang, the Norwegian newspaper) received 1m unique users a day to its mobile site during the Olympics.

Having a good app and mobile website is more important than ever, as is creating mobile friendly content. Video must be as short as possible, text not too extensive, imagery quick to load, and everything must be shareable or, in the case of ecommerce, available to purchase in as few clicks as possible.

To capitalise on ad opportunities, VG started its own in-house ad agency. It will be interesting to see the extent of native and takeover advertising around big online media outlets during the World Cup.

During London 2012, LOCOG saw that 60% of visits came from mobile devices. One might then predict that the FIFA World Cup site will see 70% or more of traffic coming from mobiles (and hence to the m dot site that FIFA uses).

Devices and second screening

A recent Voxburner survey showed that with an increase in streaming, more than half (55%) of respondents will be watching matches ‘all the time’ or ‘regularly’ on their PCs or laptops.

With second screen social media usage at its peak during prime time, and the World Cup airing at around 11pm and 12am in Europe, one might expect plenty of watching TV, laptop or tablet at home whilst dabbling on social media. 

Percentage of respondents (more than a thousand 16-24 year olds) planning to use devices to varying degrees for watching the World Cup: 

Watching on a standard TV  

  • All the time 35%
  • Regularly 51%
  • Not much 12%
  • Not at all 2% 

Watching on a laptop or PC  

  • All the time 15%
  • Regularly 40%
  • Not much 32%
  • Not at all 13% 

Watching on a mobile phone 

  • All the time 16%
  • Regularly 32%
  • Not much 32%
  • Not at all 20% 


LOCOG partnered with Google in 2012 for the Olympics. The committee ran a massive SEO campaign targeting 1,700 keywords.

Two thirds (66%) of traffic to the LOCOG site came from search.

The partnership afforded: 

  • A series of Olympic Google Doodles (see below)
  • A set of user interface elements specifically for the event.
  • A fully self-contained navigation structure in these elements (see below also).
  • These elements appeared globally (when ‘knowledge graph’ content in 2012 was largely reserved for the US).  

This was a first for this kind of content in the Google SERPs, which is now a lot more common as Google extends its knowledge graph.

At time of writing, these kind of interfaces aren’t appearing for the World Cup. I’ve only seen a card with start and end dates, but this may change.  Of course, the knowledge graph is better developed than in 2014 and Google gives up quite a lot of results page real estate to cards when one searches for a well-known footballer or team (see below once more)

Dan Barker discussed possible motivation for Google to do this with its SERPs at the time. Whether to include product searches or to simply enhance the walled garden and G+ interaction, perhaps we’ll see more of this for the World Cup.

LOCOG’s Google Doodles

google doodles

Google’s London 2012 interactive elements

google serps interfaces during the olympics 

Lionel Messi in the Google SERPs

lionel messi card in SERPs

England football team in the Google SERPs (with interactive scrolling squad element)

england football team in Google SERPs

The big bang campaigns – do they represent value for money?

Arguably Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nike have produced the most notable big splash campaigns going into World Cup 2014. 

contrasted the Coca Cola and Pepsi videos in April on this blog. Despite the fact that, anecdotally, I thought the Coca Cola advert more shareable, Pepsi has been performing more strongly with 1.43m YouTube views compared to Coca Cola’s 1.27m.

Partly this may be down to Pepsi giving its ad more TV air-time in the lead up to the World Cup, given the brand isn’t an official sponsor like Coca Cola. The featured footballers, though arguably not included in too innovative a fashion, are perhaps what the target demographic wants to see. 

On that front, Nike has done very well with its campaign and likely because it focuses on sports and not carbonated drinks (though that’s a tad unfair on Coca Cola’s ad).

To date, in one month, it has had 68m views on YouTube, and again a fair amount of TV coverage. Nike is an online destination through ecommerce and content in a way that an FMCG company (apart from perhaps Red Bull) simply can’t achieve. 

I have already heard British teenagers imitating the Nike advert, and its premise of shouting a footballer’s name to transform into that player, in my local London park.

However, there is the question of cheaper alternatives to creating these big ads and pushing them on television. It’s the least risky option, because it’s a proven method.

But as brands start to get involved with producing cheap video, gifs, agile content on social media, perhaps Hangouts and good social competitions, will the World Cup be the time to upset the old media models?

Beware the ambush?

Brands and events are more aware than ever of unofficial sponsors piggy-backing.

One of the questions in the Voxburner survey asked respondents to identify with the phrase ‘It matters to me that brands celebrating a sports event are official sponsors and feature the official logo.’

The results were:

  • Strongly agree - 22%
  • Somewhat agree - 44%
  • Disagree - 26%
  • Strongly disagree - 8%

This suggests 66% of the 16-24 demographic have the view that brands celebrating the event should be doing so officially. There is an implication that they are not impressed by ‘unofficial’ brands leveraging sports events. 

However, there’s no doubt it can have results. As David Moth reported, following the media attention around Seb Coe’s suggestion that fans wearing Pepsi t-shirts might be turned away from the Olympic Stadium in 2012, non-sponsors received a boost in traffic

Visits to increased 53%, while on the same day traffic to Coca-Cola’s corporate site fell by 69%.

Showing a similar trend, web traffic to, which had fallen 1% in the previous five weeks, saw a 16% increase in traffic while experienced a 20% fall in visitor numbers.

These results, albeit of a very high-profile gaffe, suggest there’s lots of value to be gained by ‘unofficial’ brands. 


Yep, you heard correctly. From that Voxburner study again, 15% of the thousand young consumers surveyed said they are more likely to buy newspapers during this summer’s World Cup.

Whether that’s for a wall chart or for leisurely catching up over weekend breakfast, a renaissance in print, albeit selectively, could be in the offing. 

Focus on customer experience doesn’t preclude print for important scenarios and demographics. If Amazon are printing, why shouldn’t you?