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5 (Off-the-Pitch) World Cup Trends to Watch For

This post was written by Mac Cullen, Megan Garafola and Matthew Whatley, Digital Strategists in the Social@Ogilvy Washington, DC office.

World Cup Brazil 2014

Brazil vs. Croatia, World Cup 2014

There is no doubt that, like much of the world, the Ogilvy Washington office has a serious case of World Cup Fever. While we’re all thrilled to cheer on the US National team as they battle out of the “Group of Death,” one thing on our digital strategists’ minds is how brands will compete against each other to win a different kind of World Cup.

Already, we’ve seen brands like Nike, Adidas, Hyundai and others take massive strides for a chance to participate in the world’s largest conversation. As we all settle in for the month-long celebration of the world’s greatest sport, here are five things we’ll be watching for in between games:

Battle of the Brands: Adidas, Nike and the dark horses

Not surprisingly, brands from the farthest corners of the world are looking for a slice of the action. At the heart of it is the battle of World Cup sponsor Adidas and its non-sponsor rival, Nike. With large marketing budgets and months of planning, both brands are ready to go head-to-head for a chance to reach soccer’s most passionate fans.

Does it still pay to be a sponsor, or can a brand be just as impactful with creative strategy and tactics?

And don’t count out the little guys. There are a lot of dark horses in the World Cup brand battle — and Spanish-language online marketplace company Coppel is an excellent example.

Their online prank of disguising talented football freestyler Séan Garnier as an old man has already received over 8 million views on YouTube. We’re sure this won’t be the last of it — look for smaller brands to make a big push at some of the most unexpected times over the next month.

Two Screens are Better than One

Vying for a spot as the world’s primary companion for World Cup news, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have each created their own digital “hubs” that will continuously share updates of the world’s largest real-time conversation. Each of these platforms should provide a personalized viewing experience and create an entirely new dimension to keep up with every match of the World Cup.

The Many Ways We’ll Watch the World Cup

With Brazil and the US sharing a time zone, the 2014 World Cup will likely be the most watched soccer event in US history. Yes, many fans will watch the games on television, but we won’t be surprised to learn that many, many more will tune into the World Cup from their mobile device.

Seth Ader, ESPN’s Senior Director of Marketing, notes that, since the 2010 World Cup, smartphone usage has jumped from 67 million users to over 160 million. Anticipating the inevitable surge of online viewers, broadcast sponsor ESPN has bolstered its mobile, website and social media channels to serve up 64 matches for digital subscribers.

World Cup apps from a variety of developers around the world, including ESPN, will allow users to track the matches on-the-go – and in the process have created an enormous playing field for brands to promote their messaging through mobile ads. Along with traditional TV spots, we will be on the lookout for unique and innovative ways brands leverage multi-screen viewers to share their content.

Is Real-Time Marketing Maturing or Fading?

Depending on who you talk to, RTM is:

  1. A huge opportunity
  2. Something to be carefully considered
  3. A fad; or
  4. A likely disaster better avoided.

No matter your opinion, rest assured that Marketers’ social studios and command centers are ready to respond to goals and gaffs with quickly produced content meant to insert them in the largest social conversation of all time. Will they learn from past successes and disasters or is the quality of these efforts going to remain spotty?

Sidestepping Controversy

Like the Olympics in Sochi, the World Cup is generating a significant amount of criticism about everything from human rights abuses to corporate and political corruption. Brands will look to tap into the enthusiasm of World Cup fans without seeming insensitive or ignorant to the controversies playing out. Some brave brands may even jump right into controversial storylines the way we saw in Russia when brands showed their support for gay rights during the Sochi games.

We’ll be finding time in between our many daily meetings to watch as many matches as we can. What trends will you be following throughout the 2014 World Cup?