Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been a logistical headache since inception. Until it was moved to the winter, one of these headaches was the ability of elite athletes to play their best in extreme heat. Weather machines and other creative solutions were touted before it was decided that it made more sense to move the World Cup to a date when it’s not necessary to create fake weather.
But with a new end-of-year date, a Christmas World Cup presented a new kind of headache, especially for brands and media. What do you do when the most watched sporting event in the world coincides with the consumer holiday spending period? How do you address an early Black Friday that coincides with the highly anticipated England and USA face-off?
The Global Portrait of World Cup Fandom report involved more than 5,000 fans from around the world, providing insights about World Cup sentiment, specifics around expected purchasing behavior and psychographic observations illuminating what the football fandom is seeking from brands.
It was clear from the report and conversations with our many global partners that football fandom is highly anticipating the Christmas World Cup as a time to get together with friends and family and to celebrate—both the holiday and the tournament fever. And post-lockdown, this matters even more, where isolation is still a recent wound.
For brands, we’re starting to see these themes present themselves in campaigns. Some, like Fox Sports’ campaign starring Jon Hamm as Santa, directly list the similarities between both events. But despite its brilliance, this is a World Cup campaign at heart, with some festive dressing designed to have fans watching football on TV—with limited intent to drive purchase of anything.
Our data predicts this type of creative to be rare. Instead, we expect to see brands switch between Christmas and World Cup messaging around the tournament.
With two (or more) creative messages, greater competition for inventory and increased costs, the need for a deep understanding of your target audiences is heightened. Specialist sports media and niche football communities offer great value for brands looking to reach a football-specific audience at this time of year, either to complement their wider campaign or for the campaign’s focus, while many Christmas-focused brands will be advertising long after the final goal is scored on December 18.
Of course, as is the case with all football-related campaigns, authenticity, relevance, timing and context are crucial to ensure the creative lands with savvy fans.
Social media is an obvious place to expect fans to be during the World Cup. For fans in some countries, like the U.K., it will be possible to watch four matches a day without the need to adjust when you go to sleep. So one would reasonably expect fans will be on their phones and social all day.
However, through our research we found, while social media and private messaging play a part throughout match day, it is during the match that they are used the least. Rather, it is post-match where their usage peaks. So while competition and cost for spots during the 90 minutes and halftime are fierce, there is opportunity to be had in reaching fans before and after the game rather than during it.
This is especially true for food delivery brands. According to the report, ordering takeout was by far the most popular purchase fans expect to make during the World Cup, more so than buying kits or placing a bet. But this decision is not made as teams are warming up and the broadcast is starting: 26% of fans say they decide to order food one or more days before the match, with 80% saying their decision is made hours before the match begins.
Whatever happens, this is a unique World Cup and uncharted territory for all brands. But one thing we can be sure of is we’re about to see (and have started seeing) some great work by agencies and brands.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, as an overwhelming 60% of fans said they believed World Cup ads are the most entertaining and memorable—in North America, that percentage rose to 76%.
With the possible exception of the Super Bowl, the only period that comes close to matching the World Cup in terms of marketing creativity is Christmas, meaning this year, those who watch for the ads will feel like all their Christmases (and World Cups) have come at once. Thank you Santa.