Google: Why marketers must reach consumers in the heat of World Cup action

Jordan Rost, Google's insights marketing manager
Jordan Rost, Google's insights marketing manager

A new Google report suggests this World Cup provides a host of mobile-led marketing opportunities for brands, writes Jordan Rost, Google's insights marketing manager.

After the four year wait, the World Cup 2014 is upon us. Needless to say, it's set to be the most watched sporting event in the world and digital interest is also unparalleled. As found in our recent report 2014 World Cup: What a Difference 4 Years Makes, between 2010 and 2014 the World Cup was searched for more than the Tour de France, the Olympics (Winter Olympics included) and the Super Bowl (yearly), combined. 

At this year’s Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, the cumulative volume of mobile searches far surpassed those during the 2010 World Cup final.

That probably comes as no surprise to most in the media and marketing industry; everyone knows it generates huge consumer interest and is a key month to gain massive brand exposure, whether you're an official sponsor or not. However, what is different and interesting this year is the opportunity mobile presents for marketers and advertisers alike and, more specifically, the pattern of behaviour it has created in football fans. 

In 2010, the UK’s World Cup spectator was not particularly mobile-savvy. Devices and the mobile infrastructure were not as sophisticated as they are today. During the previous World Cup, our data shows that just 20% of searches for the game, players and teams took place on a mobile device. This resulted in a very noticeable drop in search traffic during the games as audiences would turn their attention to the big screen.

Once the match had ended, search traffic would peak as fans flocked online to read the news and discuss the game with their peers. While this made it easier to plan marketing activity, brands were left competing for the audience’s attention during a short window, making it incredibly difficult to achieve a good share of voice. 

Cumulative volume

Four years on and it seems mobile devices have dramatically changed the way fans consume their sport. Looking at this year’s Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, 53% of UK searches during the game took place on a mobile device. The cumulative volume of mobile searches far surpassed those during the 2010 World Cup final. This clearly indicates a shift to multi-screening during football matches and represents a massive opportunity for marketers to engage with their audiences in real-time, something that wasn't possible before. 

Of course, now it’s up to marketers to work out how and when best to reach consumers. For a betting company it could be during a key period of the match via push notification. A sports brand could deploy a YouTube advert at half-time after its brand ambassador has scored. A drinks brand is perhaps most likely to try and reach people during half time or even a lengthy injury break.

While the options are broad, one thing is for sure; we now know that digital interaction occurs in tandem with a football match, giving advertisers the opportunity to react and offer content to fans as they watch the match. Marketers need to take this second-screen opportunity seriously.

With recent research from Google finding that 25% of UK men admit to shedding a tear during a football match, engaging with these passionate fans in the heat of the moment can be incredibly valuable for brands.

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