The World Cup Is Reshaping Global Digital Marketing

Since 1930, every four years1, fans from around the world tune in to the FIFA World Cup to see who will be named the best of the best in the sport. These fans, pridefully donning the colors of their homeland, cheer on their team as players shed sweat, blood and tears in hopes to be named champion over their 312 opponents. In the first 15 days of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, viewership reached over 1.1 billion3, and that doesn’t consider the millions of people who attended public viewing events. The World Cup is touted by many sources to be the most watched single-event sporting competition in the world.

With those billions of eyes glued to televisions and streaming devices, there seems to be little attention left for unrelated website browsing. Instead, many businesses choose to capitalize on the event’s massive viewership with other tactics for brand recognition, attempting to reach consumers through high-budget pay-per-click ads, content marketing, or special promotions. Some companies get creative with video content that leverages the games and entertains fans, like Hyundai’s #BecauseFutbol Baby Boom commercial, released in 2014. According to a global sampling of Search Optics’ automotive client data, however, the region targeted may have more impact than the medium used.

In Latin American countries like Argentina and Brazil, where we know soccer to be rooted in culture, data showed a strong correlation between website traffic and the 2018 World Cup. On days when Argentina played in the tournament, website traffic saw an average decrease of 37%, one brand even reaching a 61% decrease. Conversions followed suit with an average decrease of 58% when compared to non-game day traffic prior to the world cup. In Brazil, the trend continued with traffic decreasing, on average by 32%. Conversions took a harder hit, decreasing anywhere from 32% to a staggering 87%. While a decrease in traffic was expected, the variance was certainly higher than anticipated.

Heading across the Atlantic, our United Kingdom clients fared without much online change during England’s World Cup appearances; traffic and conversions each decreased just 5-6%, well within a reasonable margin of error. Interestingly, their team was very successful during the tournament, fighting their way through opponents to the play-off game for third place.

In Australia, however, data did the opposite, taking a positive turn; while website traffic only increased by a mere 7%, conversions were up 21% on the days Australia’s team suited up for their fifth-ever tournament appearance. The data pool was slightly smaller, however, since the Aussies played just three games total.

When comparing website traffic and conversion data to World Cup scheduling this past year, there’s no clear conclusions for improving worldwide digital marketing during the games. That said, some assumptions can be made based on global region. Latin America had eight different countries playing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup; the two specific regions we focused on, Argentina and Brazil, have been crowned the winners of a combined 7 tournaments, so it’s no surprise that their fanbase is large and attentive when their team is on the field.

Millions of people5 browse online and on mobile devices during the World Cup, streaming the games and interacting on social media; however, in regions where the tournament is held in high regard, car shoppers are clearly less inclined to click on ad highlighting vehicle features or search for a new car during a game. Brands will only see upside by extending beyond their standard key word and paid search strategies to include creative ways to break through the noise.

Ready to build your omnichannel marketing strategy? Search Optics specializes in global digital marketing strategies for the automotive industry. From dynamic retargeting to conquesting and more, we take advantage of each channel to ensure you see the best results, no matter what team your potential customers are cheering on.


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