Why a Winter World Cup could be the best thing for brands

Jill Alger

Audience Intelligence Director

The winter World Cup is here!

The FIFA World Cup. Love it or hate it, come the 20th of November, you won’t be able to avoid it. There may have been a quieter build-up to this year’s tournament due to ongoing controversy, but as soon as that first whistle blows, fans across the globe will be tuning in to back their team.

With four games a day, coverage across both ITV and BBC, and start times from 10am through to 7pm – the FIFA World Cup will be unavoidable here in the UK. While the switch from a traditionally summer event to a winter one may have sparked initial outrage from Brits, a winter tournament might not be the worst news for brands.

Timing is everything

The timing of this year’s tournament will no doubt have an impact on viewing habits. The hordes of Brits who would typically flock to pubs and bars are more likely to stay home to watch the games. In fact, according to GWI data, 60% of fans say they plan to watch from home this year, compared to just 12% who plan to watch from a public setting (i.e. in a bar or restaurant).

This shift to home viewing will predictably have an impact on the country’s hospitality industry but could nicely benefit the digital landscape. More home viewing means more second/third screening. And more screens means more advertising opportunities. Nearly half of individuals (49%) use two or more screens while watching football. 69% use a second screen – typically a mobile device or laptop – after seeing an ad to find more information on a product or service that tickles their interest. This data indicates a timely opportunity for brands to improve consumer engagement through cross-screen advertising.

The rise in home viewing will also open-up the tournament to more casual and second-hand viewers who wouldn’t usually choose to watch the games but find themselves tuning in with friends/family on a communal TV. Brands could see new gained exposure from these typically more difficult-to-reach audiences.

Something else that makes the timing of this year’s tournament unique is the overlap with the Christmas period. The games will be taking place at a time when people are thinking about what to buy for Christmas, opening-up enhanced opportunities for ecommerce brands. Generating cut-through will be more challenging, so having a stringent, audience-first approach to targeting will be crucial to brands wishing to pierce through the noise.

On a positive note, it has been reported that World Cup adverts are more memorable than standard commercials. 60% of football fans agree that World Cup adverts are more memorable than everyday advertising, which is not surprising given the direction of their passions.

Engaging fans worldwide

Speaking of audiences, this year’s tournament is anticipated to attract a new wave of female super-fans. A recent study led by football publication, Versus, has revealed that 72% of football fans have seen their interest in the women’s game increase over the last year. This is particularly true in key markets, including the USA – thanks to their win in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup – and of course, the UK, which is still reeling after the Lionesses’ record-breaking win in this year’s Euros.

Brands looking to reach female audiences should consider this widened net of opportunity, particularly in the UK where female interest in the sport is higher than ever before. For international brands, the updated timings of this year’s tournament should be seen as far less of a threat to fan engagement. A survey carried out by Footballco found that while 51% of Europeans hold negative views of the scheduling switch, that sentiment is not shared elsewhere around the globe. Just 21% of fans in Southeast Asia, 18% of Latin American supporters and 17% of the public across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are against the move.

Viewing habits across continents also vary. According to GWI data, fans in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region are more likely to watch from offices or workplaces, while fans in North America are more likely to watch in bars. Taking a market-nuanced approach will be essential for international brands, to ensure audiences are reached across the most prosperous channels and engaged with the most appropriate content and messaging.

There’s no denying that the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be unlike any other World Cup, but brands should not view the move to winter as a threat. After all, according to views collected by GWI, the UK public believes this could be the year that England finally brings it home…

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