Traditionally held in summer, the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been shifted to November - December to avoid the worst of Qatar’s extreme heat. But as teams prepare for 40-degree playing conditions, advertisers are eyeing up a different kind of storm.
In the months leading up to the festive period, ad content naturally tends towards holiday themes. This is a vital time of the year for large consumer-oriented organizations - in 2021 holiday retail sales in the USA reached over $850 Billion, and in the UK between 50-80% of total profit for retail brands is generated in the last weeks of the year.
Reflecting the importance of the holiday season for organizations’ bottom lines, Christmas ads have started to appear on our screens earlier and earlier year after year. Once a preserve of the month before Christmas, companies are launching campaigns from early November. This year John Lewis released its highly anticipated ad on November 10th, signaling the start of the festive ad season for many.
With a predicted captive audience of up to 5 billion people, advertisers can’t afford to miss out on the opportunity afforded by the World Cup. But World Cup content launches are now set to collide with festive campaigns (or combine with them a la Paddy Power and Lucozade Sport) placing further pressure on over-extended marketing budgets (prices for prime-time TV slots are up 20%) and dialing up the volume in an already crowded ad market.
Ross Sergeant (Global Head of Media, Asahi) summed up the sentiment of advertisers, “It’s stressful knowing that you really need to pull out the stops in a period when your budget might be at its most limited.”
The World Cup undeniably offers unique opportunities for brands seeking to advertise to a large captive audience. However, getting involved in the action comes at a steep price. ITV has offered brands a 20% discount on World Cup airtime for games on ITV’s core channel, but costs remain high. The price for 30-second slots during key breaks for England’s first match against the USA is around £550,000. Couple this with the cost of simultaneously running Christmas content and brands will be faced with difficult decisions in terms of budget allocation.
If brands decide to create content focused on the World Cup and Christmas, execution of this will require top-level oversight into what is being rolled out (and when). Content proliferation is an overarching challenge for advertisers. There are 6 times more ads in market today than 20 years ago, and for brands producing content on multiple platforms across global markets, speaking to two big events will only increase the issue of visibility.
With overstretched media budgets between two key cultural moments, advertisers can’t afford to invest in sub-par creatives. Forecasts predict spending on traditional TV advertising will fall 0.6% YOY this quarter, with social media spend up 6.9%.
This is undoubtedly influenced by the World Cup, where 72% of football fans report watching games via apps, and 80% browse social media during a match.
The increasingly fragmented way the World Cup is consumed provides an opportunity for advertisers. With fans dispersed over several channels simultaneously, the number of platforms across which brands can engage with their target audiences has proliferated.
Brands have moved to meet fans on the platforms they’re on. At the 2018 World Cup, Auto Trader ran a scheme that gave away a car when England scored a goal, if people used the #AutoTraderGoal then were in with a chance to win. Positive brand sentiment tripled throughout the campaign, promoted video had a CPV of just £0.01, and achieved 62% SOV over the campaign, far outstripping its rivals.
At the same tournament, William Hill sponsored the hashtag “It’s Coming Home” (the theme tune to all English success at the tournament). Throughout the competition, the hashtag was used 28,600 times a day, and William Hill enjoyed a 24% increase in positive sentiment, 2000 app installs, and over 300 new sign-ups.
But, it’s not enough just to post on digital channels. A study from Analytic Partners showed that creative built natively for each channel, following platform best practices, was 2.2-3.6X more effective than TV creative repurposed for digital channels.
Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter have developed data-driven creative best practices (ABCDs): optimizing the use of these guidelines has been shown to deliver up to 38% improvement in sales lift and ROAS. Ensuring that all of your creatives meet these best practices means that no media budget is wasted.
While football’s fanbase is still predominantly male (Nielsen estimates that globally 63% of fans are male and 37% female) there has been a rapid uptick in women’s interest in the game over the past few years.
Women make up 50% of the US population but are responsible for 70-80% of consumer purchases. Brands risk losing business if their ads fail to represent the audiences consuming them. Research from the Geena Davis Institute revealed that people are more likely to watch video ads that feature at least as many female characters as male characters.
Some brands have responded to these audience shifts. Earlier this year Heineken launched an ad challenging the assumption that all football fans are men. Featuring women demonstrating their enthusiasm for football - one sneaks into the bathroom during a date to check the score, another carefully positions herself to be able to slow dance while keeping an eye on the game - it ends with the tagline “Cheers to all fans. Men included.” A subversion of the assumption that the default gender of sports fans is male.
To appeal to female fans, brands need to ensure that women are represented in their content. CreativeX analysis of CPG and beauty ads demonstrated the continued lack of accurate female representation within the advertising space, with a greater proportion of ad spend going behind content portraying traditional gender roles and male characters. As Yasmin Greenaway, CEO of Base+, explained in her interview with CreativeX, “You have to measure to be able to make decisions about what you need to do differently or what is going unaddressed.” Creative data provides insights into how representative content is, facilitating the process of creating content that better reflects changes in audience makeup.
Looking forward to 2023, brands have another opportunity to engage female football fans at the Women’s World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand. In the USA, women’s ‘soccer’ has historically pulled in bigger crowds than men’s games. Viewership of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final was 22% higher than the 2018 men’s final. Nike has already produced content explicitly connected to the women’s game - their “Never Settle, Never Done” ad featuring Alexia Putellas, Leah Williamson, and Marie-Antoinette Katoto along with grassroots community clubs, garnered over 6 million views on YouTube in just 3 months.
The overlap of the World Cup and Christmas is a unique challenge for marketers, but as budgets tighten further in 2023 and content production continues to proliferate, the learnings remain highly relevant.
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