How Brands Are Making a Digital Impact at the 2018 World Cup


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With Three Billion People Tuning In... Marketing Dollars Join The Game

As the World Cup tournament heads down the final stretch, the on-field battle for soccer supremacy isn’t the only fierce competition taking place. Off the field, brands -- both big and small -- are competing for consumers’ attentions in more ways than ever before. According to FIFA, three billion people watched the 2014 World Cup, with another estimated 280 million tuning in online or on a mobile device.

This digital trend is expected to grow exponentially for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and the tournament's even been dubbed the first truly digital World Cup. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded looks at how brands are making a digital impact at the 2018 World Cup, and taking advantage of the spike in online fan engagement.

Brands Making A Digital Impact

Twitter: The Official Digital Playing Field of the World Cup

In January, the popular social platform signed a deal with Fox Sports—the exclusive English-language broadcast network of the World Cup in the United States. As part of the collaboration, Fox Sports produced live hosted shows streaming exclusively on Twitter; Fox is also provided the social network with real-time video highlights including goals, player interviews and more. The partnership is a major coup for Twitter as it signals the social network’s arrival as a true online video platform.


Twitter presents a great opportunity for brands looking to reach wide audiences because of the type of conversations that the platform encourages. It’s a deeply-engaged global audience and the introduction of video only serves to expand that audience while strengthening its engagement.

In 2014, Twitter estimated that there were 672 million tweets about the World Cup. That number is expected to rise above one billion for the 2018 tournament! Also, Alex Josephson, head of global brand strategy at Twitter, says that brand-related soccer conversations were up 17% year over year and that figure was sure to rise in June and July 2018 as the competition kicked into gear. He also stated that Twitter users have an expectation to hear from brands during live events.

Studios have definitely taken notice as they’ve invested in World Cup pre-roll ads on Twitter. Amazon Studios has heavily promoted its upcoming series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Mike Benson, director of marketing at Amazon Studios, says “Twitter becomes a really great platform that complements TV viewing. It’s something that people are actively doing at the same time. We like the overall engagement strategy of using television and Twitter in a complementary way.

While, in general, advertising on Twitter can be hit or miss with a difficult to track ROI; for major events like the World Cup, the medium is very attractive to brands looking to reach an enthusiastic global audience.

In terms of what marketers can do, it depends on the type of user engagement. And really there are two primary targets:

  1. To reach users who mainly watch highlights, brands should focus on video sponsorships, event targeting, and promoted videos.
  2. For users engaged in conversations, brands can utilize custom audiences, niche influencers, promoted trend, and instream video ads or sponsorships.

Twitter offers brands the chance to join a global conversation and inject their personalities into the discussion. For example, in 2014, Snickers released the following ad shortly after controversial Uruguay striker Luis Suarez bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.


It's not an ad that everyone would get. But it is one that soccer fans around the world find spot on and hilarious.

Marketers can and should plan their Twitter content strategies in advance, but you should also be prepared to react quickly to any unexpected stories or controversies that are sure to come up during the course of the event. Relevant, up-to-the-minute content is a great way to stay top of mind as your brand looks to differentiate itself from the clutter of conversations taking place on the social network.

Just think of the success of that Super Bowl moment when Oreo owned the blackout.

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World Cup Standout Advertiser:  Hyundai

Now let’s take a quick peak at some other content strategies that brands are employing on various digital platforms during the World Cup.

Hyundai introduced one of the more creative marketing campaigns by building their own microsite featuring an interactive Hyundai Cheering Stadium which lets fans log on, select a country of their choice, and enter a virtual stadium to cheer alongside thousands of their fellow virtual fans during their favorite team’s games. Hyundai supplemented this strategy with a slogan competition, where the winning slogans were displayed on the sidelines of the virtual stadium.

Hyundai also partnered with various soccer legends such as Thierry Henry and Lukas Podolski in its “Hyundai World Football Heritage” series featuring a set of videos covering fan culture through the eyes of each player. These videos are posted on YouTube and Facebook.


World Cup Standout Advertiser:  New Balance

New Balance competed with the likes of Adidas and Nike (on a fraction of their marketing budgets) by teaming up with various YouTube influencers for a video series that takes viewers across various Russian host cities for an on the ground look at Russian football culture.

Putting Russia at the center of its content—and by focusing on gritty reality over glamour—New Balance has differentiated their marketing campaign from the glitzy, star-heavy campaigns of their deep pocketed competitors. The content has been posted across all of New Balance’s social platforms as well as publisher, and partner, Goal.

World Cup Standout Advertiser:  Budweiser

Budweiser bolstered its large scale, big budget commercial campaign “Light Up the World Cup” in the digital space by launching the first ever sound-activated Snapchat lens which responds to the cheers of fans in the stadium.



The brand's Light up the FIFA World Cup commercial continued the campaign featuring a near impossible delivery of beer, with drones carrying individual Budweiser beer bottles from its Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri (US) to various World Cup watching parties, from Shanghai to Rio de Janeiro, and to Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

A Brand Extravaganza Around Sports

The World Cup is possibly the biggest sporting event for the entire world for engagement. Yes, there is the Olympics, but soccer fans bring a new level of passion and team camaraderie for their home countries. 

Also be sure to check out our blog Top Brand Partnerships For The 2018 FIFA World Cup.

For numerous blogs about celebrity endorsements, influencer marketing, and marketing in Hollywood, check out our links below! 

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