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The Specialist View: Your World Cup 2018 media advice

Your guide through the media landscape during the globe's biggest sporting event

Over 3 billion people watched the World Cup in 2014, making this football extravaganza the globe’s biggest single sports event.

Given this enormous reach and potential, it’s no surprise that we’re already starting to tie up our World Cup campaigns.

Though if you’re not quite up to speed on how to get the most out of this exciting time, we’ve asked our channel experts to give you the lowdown on the media landscape during the World Cup - topics include, availability, time-frame recommendations, consumer behaviour patterns, rates and more.

Please welcome our expert panel...

TV/AV: Richard Maisey; Group Account Director - AV
Press: Emma Bullard; Account Director - Press
OOH: James Russell; Press & OOH Manager
Digital: Laricea Roman; Head of Digital

How will the World Cup effect availability?

TV/AV: Linear TV viewing is typically lighter in the summer months; the market is softer as a result.  Major sporting events like the World Cup bring additional investment from advertisers, increasing demand for viewing impacts, but this is mirrored by increased supply of impacts, particularly from hard to reach younger male audiences. Availability for home nation games will be tight, particularly for those games in the evening (UK kick off times will be 1pm, 4pm and 7pm), accessing lower profile and daytime games, will be much less so.

Press: Unless you’re looking to book into sports sections, the World Cup won’t have a major impact on the general availability. However, space in and around sports sections/editorial will naturally get booked up further in advance - plan early!

OOH: We can expect FMCG brands and World Cup sponsors to have already booked their OOH advertising campaigns. Of course, this means reduced availability across national 48 sheets, however, the smaller formats should be on standard availability.

Digital: Most digital ad space isn’t advanced booked in the manner of offline media, so generally speaking, big international events, such as the World Cup, don’t have a have a huge impact on media cost or delivery. The exceptions will be highly tailored partnerships with niche content publishers, which need to be investigated well in advance. Social space would probably get quite busy since Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are seeking online rights to video highlights from the World Cup, so sponsoring live events related to the World Cup might get booked up earlier in the year. Additionally, any exclusive World Cup content on YouTube might also be reserved a few good months before the event.

When should I start planning campaigns / laying down airtime?

TV/AV: There’re always benefits to planning early and getting ahead, but equally there is value to being reactive and capitalising on what’s happening live with some smart media and messages. Ask for expert advice on a case by case basis.

Press: If you want to advertise over this period, and would like to do so within relevant editorial, there is no ‘too soon’. Unfortunately, the bigger promotional activity, sponsorship packages and larger-scale deals are generally already tied up by now. Though for general advertising around this time, we would recommend briefing ASAP to avoid disappointment.

OOH: National large format static sites are starting to get booked up already – the time to plan is now!

Digital: Sooner rather than later to be able to select the best inventory in terms of 'white-listing' certain websites and apps. However, saving some budget for last minute deals could be a great idea in terms of saving money and getting an unexpectedly good digital package.

When should my campaign start?

TV/AV: This depends on the product, category, and audience. Major sporting events often lead to increases in sales of items such as large screen TVs, producers of which would want to be on air earlier. For retailers/producers of food or alcohol, the consumer action is more immediate, so activity should peak later. Where advertisers want to engage and interact with a football loving audience there is a greater need to start that dialogue in the lead up to the tournament, but for mass reach in-tournament products (for example, food or alcohol again), then the emphasis comes much later.

OOH: The World Cup begins on the 14th June which is just at the end of the standard OOH in-charge period (which starts on the 4th June). Advertisers are faced with the choice of booking activity for the 4th June in-charge, offering advertisers a 10-day build-up to the World Cup start, or miss the opening matches in most groups and start advertising on the 18th June in-charge.

Digital: Whilst it may feel like we spend a long time talking about the World Cup, you can see from the below chart (Google Trends) that consumer interest in World Cup topics is mostly restricted to within the month the tournament runs. A little interest builds in late May, but people really engage during the opening weekend and throughout the group stages. (Note, this graph shows UK trends only). We would recommend a heavy presence in place by the opening game; reference the various stages of games in your communications, making your message relevant to that particular phase e.g. opening vs semi-finals etc.

Google Trends - World Cup Search Volumes
Google Trends - World Cup Search Volumes

What are the likely consumer behaviour patterns?

TV/AV: Various factors affect how consumers will behave around the tournament – how home nations perform, the timings of games etc. This is partly predictable, but there is also a need to be reactive to circumstances and adapt to consumer behaviour as the tournament plays out.

OOH: Life should go on as normal, however, expect lower traffic levels during England games and higher pub attendance. Socialite screens in pubs offer a great reach – while dynamic DOOH during England matches are less attractive.

Digital: Referring back to the chart (above), if you’re actively trying to leverage the World Cup then it’s important to bear in mind that you really only have a 2-3 week period to make an impact. During that time people will be far more likely to engage with related World Cup content, so from a digital marketing perspective you may need to change your content strategy to exploit this. But any change in your consumer behaviour won’t last for long – which is probably good news for many advertisers, who may be adversely affected by people’s attention being focussed on football. Also remember, the content strategy needs to stay relevant to the evolution of the event, as some footballers/brands/countries might become very popular/unpopular overnight; all communications should reflect the given mood.

Should I expect category exclusivity?

TV/AV: Within TV, clash policies will be in place as at other times of the year. On occasion, official sponsors can shut out competitors, but there are a multitude of ways to target and leverage a major tournament like this across media channels.

Press: Unless you pay big bucks up front, or sign up to a sponsorship deal, I wouldn’t expect category exclusivity. Publishers will generally steer clear of this.

How to reach other audiences (other than football-lovers)?

TV/AV: The further home nations progress in the tournament, the broader the interest and the viewing audience becomes. However, there will of course be parts of the population who actively avoid football coverage, and the broadcaster will plan schedules to accommodate them. There will still be many impacts/TVRs to claim outside of the football across a vast range of channels and content; it’s a straightforward process to plan around the World Cup.

How will it affect rates?

TV/AV: Cost increases are found mostly within the highest profile (home nation) games and young male audiences.  The event will attract viewers, but will also turn some off; on a broad 'all adults' level, the affected cost is less pronounced.  It’s in the places where impacts are most highly demanded that costs are most impacted.

Press: Unsurprisingly, costs in and around specific sports sections/editorial will generally be charged at a premium rate. Brands targeting this event specifically will book far in advance, so availability is generally more of a concern than rates.

OOH: OOH rates should not be affected. 

Digital: As mentioned previously, rates for digital aren’t usually affected by such events, however some digital partnerships with niche content publishers – e.g. sports networks, big newspapers or TV channels – might end up slightly more expensive than the usual partnerships.

What happens if/when England go out?

TV/AV: Naturally, coverage of England games will attract more English viewers from across the demographic spectrum. When England go out, typically impacts do start to fall below estimation (or what they would have been with England still in the tournament).

Press: In previous years, we’ve seen a softer trading market in press post ‘event’. The volume of advertisers who bring budget forward specifically for the World Cup mean that demand tends to be lower afterwards. This can (and has in the past) led to more short term/cheaper space in the market in subsequent weeks.

OOH: Static sites will not be affected too much. DOOH, conversely, may have additional availability due to releases by England team sponsors; that is, if they have the flexibility in their media schedule to shift volumes to later in the year.

Digital: Your window of opportunity probably gets shorter with an early England exit. Again, the graph above (Google Trends) shows a decline as the density of games reduces, but you can also map England’s performances onto this. The sharpest decline in interest in the second week of the tournament was in 2014, when England were eliminated after only two games in the group stages. In 2006 and 2010 England exited in the third full week of the tournament (quarter finals and last sixteen respectively) and you can clearly see the reduction in interest after that time.

Intriguingly the interest in the final two weeks of the tournament was higher in 2014 – perhaps more general interest was somewhat rekindled once England fans had recovered from their early shock. This could offer a great opportunity to entice consumers with offers or freebies to make it up for the deep disappointment and spread some brand love! Ben & Jerry’s did a great job four years ago, distributing free ice-cream to supporters of the countries that were eliminated in the first round. Brands can get very creative and use the opportunity to get closer to audiences.

Which channels would be best for my campaign?

TV/AV: TV offers the opportunity for mass reach of broad audiences during home nations matches, and tightly targeted young male and upmarket male audiences through the smaller matches. There is also the opportunity to capitalise on other commercial TV stations that will be actively fighting for the female audience who want to avoid the football. Smaller packages can be accommodated on TV through the small volume of matches transmitted on ITV4, as well as allowing for the opportunity to buy in the football on a regional basis. TV basically covers all bases!

Press: Strengths of press over this type of high profile event is that creative has the ability to be reactive to events/key points throughout the tournament making campaigns more stand out and relevant.

OOH: The flexibility of creative messaging in DOOH gives advertisers the opportunity to react to the various outcomes. In general OOH offers huge international reach during an event which only comes around every four years.

Digital: If you want to do something disruptive but can’t afford a high profile sponsorship then digital media is the place to do it. The likes of Nike and Pepsi, who’s key competitors are official world cup sponsors, create and deploy a lot of online football content in the run up to the World Cup. This builds an association with the sport to counter the high visibility of their competitors.

For smaller brands, it’s easier to create and deploy engaging football content through social media and other digital environments in a cost effective way, and without issues of availability.

There are also clever ways of capitalising on competitors’ huge spend, such as TV syncing – stealing share of voice from big brands who can afford a huge TV campaign by targeting audiences on social, PPC and display.

Digital can be an engaging, personalised medium of communication during the World Cup, due to the types of ads used: dynamic, real-time creative, a variety of tailored images, filters, videos etc, 

If you would like further advice on how to drive maximum efficiencies out of your media campaigns throughout the World Cup, or to discuss any TSW services, please contact Matthew Pover on