A captive audience of about 23 million Brits were glued to the 1998 World Cup in France. Matches were aired in the evening, making ITV the obvious contender on media schedules.
But with the three England games broadcasting at 7.30am, 10.30am and lunchtime, matching these figures will be impossible, especially since ITV has lost the rights to screen the biggest crowd-puller - England versus Argentina - to the BBC.
Only 15 per cent of the population intend to watch all of the games live, according to the Leeds full-service agency Poulter Partners, and 71 per cent are not even aware of the World Cup's early start times.
Habitual World Cup advertisers are having to think again, especially the UK-only brands, Poulter Partners' managing director, Gary McCall, says.
"Traditionally, drinks manufacturers advertise heavily around evening games,
McCall says. "In the last World Cup, consumers were queuing around the corner at off-licences to stock up for matches. At best now, they can co-ordinate their promotions with evening match highlights but must realise that their link with football is more tenuous. Companies selling breakfast solutions, however, such as juice or cereal manufacturers or McDonald's, will be seizing every opportunity to associate themselves with the event."
Other advertisers to gain from the early timing of matches, McCall predicts, include companies involved in evening entertaining, such as restaurants or cinemas, which have historically either targeted World Cup widows or not advertised at all while the nation's menfolk have only football on the brain.
McCall stresses that we'll still see significant TV audiences, especially for the England versus Argentina match ("TV is still a huge medium for advertisers"), but other media will benefit from the early kick-off. Radio and the internet - and ideally a mixture of the two - are being touted as prime advertising vehicles for World Cup advertising. Radio, because of its heavy usage in the morning, including drivetime to and from work, and the internet because of its ability to zap World Cup titbits to desktops.
Sports.com asked 1,261 of its European users how they were planning to keep track of the games. Sixty-nine per cent said they would use Sports.com to receive match reports, just ahead of the sports section of a daily newspaper (66 per cent), other sports sites (59 per cent), terrestrial TV (55 per cent) and listening to sport on the radio (46 per cent). Even though it will be impractical to do so, however, the majority (71 per cent) favoured watching the matches live on satellite or cable.
Sports.com has just signed a deal with the World Cup sponsor Gillette to sponsor its World Cup subsite, Gamezone. The deal incorporates the use of a branded screensaver that eliminates the need for work-dodging sports fans to log on and off the web to check the scores.
Global brands which traditionally have an association with football are booking campaigns and spending more on the internet, according to Paul Wright, the group sales and marketing director at Sports.com, but he has yet to be inundated with calls from local advertisers. This, Wright believes, is because they are booking internet campaigns on a quarterly basis, so they won't pick up the phone until April. In the meantime, the ad team is selling the internet as an ideal work medium. "If people are accessing the net at work, then advertisers are catching them in a very uncluttered environment,
We're also likely to see more use of text messaging by advertisers around the World Cup. Carlsberg may not be the most appropriate fit for breakfast time, but it is continuing its strong links with football by sponsoring an SMS service which aims to zap between 750,000 and one million goal updates to working football fans.
Digital Media is offering the service on 15 April to those who sign up to its properties, which include Rivals.net and football365.com. The name Carlsberg will flash up on the recipient's mobile and the drinks brand will have 20 characters at the end of the message to insert its commercial message.
Radio is also gearing up for a World Cup advertising bonanza. When England qualified, the Radio Advertising Bureau produced a report for media buyers, stating its case. The report claims that "radio accompanies more morning activities than any other medium". The RAB's figures show that about 75 per cent of the 534 consumers quizzed on their average morning's media consumption listen to the radio in the early morning, compared with around 5 per cent in the evening - TV territory.
Other charts, compiled using Rajar figures, show how listening at work and in-car has increased steadily since 1999.
This, the RAB's director of media planning, Peter Cory, says, is due to three factors: more liberal views on listening to the radio in the workplace, the availability of radio on the net and the increasing trend toward working at home. "This is going to be the World Cup of radio and the internet,
Cory says. "Advertisers will want to focus their activity on the daytime, following what happens in real time. The World Cup will be held in the peak of summer, when TV viewing is always down. And how many people will watch the evening highlights when they already know the score?"
Georgina Hickey, the international media director at Carat, which represents the official World Cup sponsor, Adidas, disagrees.
Adidas, like many of the other sponsors, has delayed deciding its media schedule until the lengthy TV rights issues were finalised, but it will definitely be spending more on the internet this year. Having said that, Hickey still believes that ITV's highlights slot will be a good advertising bet.
"It's a similar situation to when the Olympics was held in Australia," Hickey says. "We found a lot of people still watched the highlight programmes on primetime. They will always pull in the audiences because football fans are interested in more than just knowing the score; they'll still want to witness the action for themselves and you can't beat watching something on TV."