Speaking during an ESPN-sponsored panel discussion entitled ‘Connected fans and brands with the World Cup across every screen’, Coke’s head of assets and experiential Paul Dwan warned technology will be "the difference" between this year’s tournament and the previous one in 2010.
Dwan said: "In real-time, there were 2.3 billion consumers engaging with the World Cup in 2010. This year it’ll be more like three billion. The biggest difference will be the need to be real-time rather than pre-planned."
The Coke marketer discussed its "very collaborative" partnership with Tumblr, through which it plans to create a "mosaic" of fans’ faces which will be unveiled in the form of a flag during the opening match of this summer’s tournament in Brazil.
Aisling McCarthy, who handles the Adidas account at social media agency We Are Social, agreed brands must put plans in place to engage with fans in the right way at the right time.
She said: "It is a reactive environment, so you need to know how fans behave in and around games.
"They watch the game, they update on Twitter, they second-screen. If you understand the behaviour then you can work out how to engage with that.
"It’s similar to the Super Bowl, where brands get much bigger bang for their buck, and not just that one ad during the game."
According to Tim Collins, UK managing director at sponsorship agency Octagon, brands must look to "enhance" the viewing experience rather than "distract" from it.
He said: "[Offering] statistics really helps, and making consumers feel part of the action, giving them a voice. That’s a step in the right direction."
Dwan said Coke would aggressively defend its sponsorship against any ambush marketing from rivals such as Pepsi. He said: We’re very protective of our rights. We support sports from grassroots to elite level, but ultimately we’re ambassadors of the brand and the business and we need to be guardians of the rights we buy into."
Also on the panel was former Liverpool, Real Madrid and England footballer Steve McManaman, who said the World Cup in Brazil will be the best yet: "Brazil is the mythical country when it comes to football - I remember the 1982 team. It promises to be the biggest and most magical tournament so far."