Brands embrace World Cup fever with help from Twitter

As social media becomes awash with football chat, advertisers are finding ways to make a presence. By Catherine Turner.

World Cup: brands are believed to be spending £500,000 each on Twitter during the tournament
World Cup: brands are believed to be spending £500,000 each on Twitter during the tournament

When the 2014 Fifa World Cup kicks off in Brazil next month, up to 200 million people will watch the tournament live on TV, with more than a billion expected to tune in for the final match.

The competition will be a huge draw for brands. In the UK alone, ITV is anticipating a 13 per cent hike in advertising revenues during the second quarter.

And, increasingly, what’s big for TV is big for Twitter. The social media network estimates that 95 per cent of public conversation around TV now happens in real time on Twitter.

Sport accounted for eight of the top ten most-Tweeted-about topics in the UK last year. Even the "warm-up" Confederations Cup garnered 36 million Tweets globally. And with every major event now breaking another Twitter record, anticipation for this World Cup is huge.

A study from GlobalWeb-Index found that 87 per cent of the UK’s 15 million Twitter users intend to watch the World Cup live, with the vast majority (79 per cent) doing so with others.

And Twitter’s reach extends beyond the TV coverage. The same study shows that almost half of users (43 per cent) intend to use Twitter to keep up with results.

The Football Association used the @England handle to unveil the squad on 12 May. Within 30 minutes, more than 16,000 fans had retweeted the message. Meanwhile, the England team sponsor, Vauxhall, took out a Promoted Trend that day with the hashtag #comeonengland.

"All roads lead to Brazil," Dara Nasr, the Twitter UK sales director, says. "Brands are really excited about what they can leverage on Twitter."

Campaign understands that Twitter UK has several brands spending in the region of £500,000 each around the event, with the largest campaigns pushing £1 million.

Nasr’s team is believed to be targeting around £8 million during the four weeks of the tournament, and there was even talk of blind auctioning World Cup-related Promoted Trends – the ad units are usually bought for one day for a flat fee.

Nasr declines to comment on any of the above, but says: "This is certainly the most we, or brands, have been prepared for a major event of this scale."

It is, however, indicative of how the platform might promote its ad products in the future for big live events.

That said, much of the activity will fall into real-time marketing, with brands hoping to hog the headlines in the way that Oreo’s spur-of-the-moment "dunk in the dark" ad did during the power cut at the 2013 Super Bowl.

Adidas introduced its #allin hashtag during last year’s Champions League and, in December, launched an account for the official World Cup ball, @Brazuca. It has 130,000 followers.

Some brands, such as Peperami and many bookmakers, are coming on board with Promoted Tweets and special accounts.

Nasr advises brands to be prepared for action both within and between matches. An example is the VisitEngland Tweet during Euro 2012, which made light of England’s loss on penalties (again) and invited users to delight in other English "traditions".

What is predictable is that talk around the World Cup will ignite on Twitter. And brands will be a big part of it.