As excitement—frenzy in many places—starts to whip up as the soccer-loving world converges in Brazil in mid-June for the next World Cup tournament, brands are salivating as always at the branding and marketing opportunity that such a mega-sporting event affords.

Many brands like Nike and Coca-Cola have been perennial supporters of arguably the global sporting world’s most popular event, but with every succeeding tournament, more and more brands are taking advantage of the platform. But, like with the Super Bowl, many brands are defaulting to an over-reliance on the glittery platform of big-budget multi-million dollar in-game network television commercials. It is somewhat befuddling that many advertisers enamored with the broad reach and the presumed consumer engagement that big iconic global sporting extravaganzas offer are still approaching their media plans in 2014 with a 2004 mindset.

While running high-production value spots during the big games will definitely get your brand on the stage, complementing it with a sizable, highly strategic and hyper-targeted digital ad plan that launches months in advance of the big event will actually deliver the level of impact and ROI that brands should expect, even demand from these opportunities. So, those of you mired in the old thinking with little or perfunctory regard for this method are in for a rude awakening when your television-heavy media plans don’t fulfill the pre-ordained brand KPIs.


Because if an advertisers are actually doing due diligence in terms of best practices for leveraging the World Cup, they would have taken note of the fact that the upcoming 2014 tournament in Brazil represents the first World Cup in a “truly global digital age.” For example, four years ago, Instagram wasn’t even around and Facebook had only 100 million users compared to the 1 billion who use the platform currently. And as recently as 2006, YouTube and Twitter were not yet the behemoths into which they’ve evolved.


Furthermore, the advances in ad technology during the past four years now afford brand marketers the ability to employ precise and refined audience targeting and buying techniques that weren’t available four years ago to find World Cup consumer aficionados on publisher sites. This was not available in 2010.

The Recommendation

Again, network television buys during the tournament should not be the primary emphasis of the media plan. In fact, the run-up months of April-June should get a significant share of the budget and be deemed equally or more important than TV. Because it’s the lead-up to the big event where the greater interest builds, upon which brands could capitalize.

A brief microcosm of these differing schools of thought can be exhibited in the current approaches taken by sporting wear giants Adidas, the official World Cup category sponsor, and arch-rival Nike. If you currently go online, Adidas is not leveraging its official sponsorship in a meaningful way. You can bet, however, that as the tournament approaches in June, Adidas will heavy up on its network TV media weight, but they are missing a golden opportunity now to build the foundational presence that will actually make those network TV dollars much more effective.

Conversely, Coca-Cola gets it right. As they have done with the Olympics, Coke is approaching its FIFA World Cup sponsorship with fully integrated campaigns. They are already running robust promotions including people taking selfies with the actual World Cup trophy as it winds its way through its global tour before arriving in Brazil before the tournament start in June.

Beyond the power of social media, ad technology featuring keyword targeting can now scour billions of URLs on the Internet in 25 different languages based on players and locations. The sculpted, custom segmentation of these audiences greatly inform bidding strategies that generate hyper-targeted messaging and ROI that brands are increasingly expecting.

A great current example of this is Castrol Oil’s success in generating over one million views in the first 24 hours for an entertaining, Samba-backed video pitting race car driver and YouTube star Ken Block against Neymar, one of the expected stars of the World Cup, in an unusual soccer shootout. Keyword tagging was employed to deliver a specific audience. The fact that it went viral was icing on the cake.

Hopefully, other brands will follow Castrol’s lead and start viewing the World Cup, Super Bowl and other iconic sporting events through a broader filter and a longer horizon when it comes to employing their marketing dollars.