From the first kick in São Paulo last week, the 2014 Fifa World Cup has offered a global spectacle like no other, and all to the beat of the samba. The action is not just on the pitch but in media too.
It is easy to forget how much has changed since the last World Cup final. In 2010, there were 5.4 billion mobile subscriptions; today, there are 6.8 billion. Facebook had half-a-billion users then and has more than 1.2 billion now. YouTube has doubled its user base to more than a billion. Neither Instagram nor Google+ had launched, while Snapchat and Tinder weren’t even twinkles in the eyes of their creators.
In terms of handling media activity for clients, buying a 30-second spot during the tournament used to be the whole story – now it’s just the beginning of an ongoing conversation. The World Cup is a massive event, not only for the players and supporters but also for the marketing and media industries.
From a sporting point of view in the UK, it’s the pre-eminent opportunity to reach mass audiences consuming content that is likely to be the main conversation driver for a huge swathe of the population. At least until England are knocked out.
For the media owners, the audiences will be large and valuable. ITV (sharing the TV coverage with the BBC) will see sharp spikes in ratings among the hard-to-reach audience segment of young, affluent males.
Buying a 30-second spot used to be the whole story - now it's just the beginning of an ongoing conversation
TalkSPORT secured the exclusive commercial rights to all live games on radio (the broadcast rights are, again, shared with the BBC) and will see similar peaks in audience and reach – the latter is forecast to increase by 5-7 per cent. This is a pretty substantial bump for such an established station.
And the benefits are not confined to broadcasters – we expect newspaper circulations to rise substantially, by 20-30 per cent at times, along with traffic to websites containing World Cup content.
While there will be a leap in male audiences during the tournament, it is important to put this into perspective. Quite simply, football viewing in the UK has changed. The working-class, male-only enclave is no more and the sport now has genuine mass appeal. Some 45 per cent of the audience watching the 2010 World Cup final was female, and we believe the gender gap in this year’s tournament will close further.
The proliferation of consumer technology has changed behaviour and given us the opportunity to innovate like never before. Consumers will want World Cup content at their fingertips and are comfortable consuming it through multiple platforms, often simultaneously.
Buying a 30-second spot still has tremendous resonance but it’s just one element of the mix. The more personal, on-demand nature of viewing changes the way we plan for our clients. A TV programme is no longer simply judged on its ratings delivery but on its wider impact in the social world and delivery against social traction or delayed viewing.
This connected World Cup offers a plethora of planning and buying opportunities but, at the heart of it all, our work is to ensure that all the communication strands lead back to the brand.
Phil Hall is the joint head of investment at MediaCom