World Cup: £900m Advertising Bonanza

Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting at media agency ZenithOptimedia, looks at advertising spend and trends around this year’s FIFA World Cup.

There are only two events large enough to provide a regular and substantial boost to advertising budgets across the whole world, and they are both sporting events: the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. They both provide rich opportunities for marketers to engage with passionately involved consumers, and in a world that offers unparalleled media choice, there remains a huge appetite for collective media experiences that bring together families, friends, colleagues and strangers to view and discuss shared events.

We estimate that the 2014 World Cup added about £900 million to the global ad market this year, and £50 million of this in the UK. Most of this extra money was spent on TV – about £35 million in the UK – which is still unrivalled in its ability to build reach and communicate brand values. Internet advertising was the second most important medium for most World Cup advertisers, though for a few it took first place.

The World Cup has the benefit for advertisers in northern-hemisphere countries – most of the big ad markets – of taking place in the summer, when people normally spend more of their free time outside. In the UK, TV audiences are typically five-10 per cent lower than average in the summer months, so the boost to viewing provided by the FIFA World Cup is very welcome. The competition also attracts large numbers of viewers who are hard to reach on TV – notably upmarket young men – making it particularly attractive for brands targeting these audiences.

Brazil has been a great World Cup on TV for viewers, broadcasters and advertisers. Thanks to the time difference between Brazil and Europe, most matches have aired in or around peak time, and have therefore been more accessible to the working population than they were during the previous tournament in South Africa. TV audiences were strong across the world, and in the United States, for example, English-language broadcasters ESPN/ABC reported an increased viewership of 39 per cent compared to the 2010 World Cup, while Spanish-language broadcaster Univision was up 34 per cent from 2010.

And if audiences increased on TV, they exploded on social media. During the group stage alone there were 300 million related tweets across the world, twice the amount over a comparable period during the 2012 London Olympics. During the first 19 days of the World Cup alone there were more than one billion posts, likes and comments made on Facebook. This was the first time that any event generated more than a billion interactions on Facebook, dwarfing the 185 million interactions for this year’s Super Bowl, 120 million for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and 25.4 million for the Oscars.

Social media now offers brands great opportunities to associate with the World Cup and engage consumers in conversations about topics in which they are deeply interested and emotionally invested. The continued rapid growth of social media promises that the next global sporting event, which will also take place in Brazil – the Olympics in 2016 – will be bigger still.

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