In one week, the FIFA World Cup Men’s Soccer competition will kick off in Russia. For most of the world that is big news.
Here in the U.S., not so much. Soccer isn’t really our sport. Well, not our men’s sport anyway. Our Women’s World Cup soccer team is the envy of the world and will be the defending champs when the women’s championship kicks off in Paris next year.
However, our men’s team was eliminated in a late 2017 qualifying game against Trinidad and Tobago — it was an upset, which means the U.S. men will be watching the World Cup from their couches this year, while Trinidad and Tobago are suiting up to take the field in Russia.
Even in a “good year” for the U.S. and the World Cup (like in 2014, when the U.S. men were in the tournament in Brazil and, thus, in a time zone friendly to U.S. watchers), American attention and enthusiasm for FIFA soccer is limited. One might be forgiven if, before reading this article, they had no idea that the World Cup is starting a week from now.
However, around the globe, the picture is very different — the audience is massive, enthusiastic and ready to spend.
Though the "how’s" and the "where’s" of that spend — that might surprise you. While Europeans are spending plenty to gear up for the world cup (Germany is the defending champion, and England is a favored dark horse among soccer enthusiasts), the bigger pops of action in the run-up to the World Cup are coming off the Western world’s beaten path.
China Leads The 2018 Advertising Push
This year’s FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia will add $2.4B to the global advertising market, according to Zenith.
A third of that money will come from Chinese advertisers who, according to the World Advertisers Research Center (WARC), are looking to capitalize on the fact that Americans' lower average interest — coupled with the various scandals FIFA has navigated over the last year and Russia’s increasingly complex place in the world community — has dulled the interest of Western brands in advertising at this year's event. That has left an opening that Chinese brands are planning to spend — $832 million to fill on advertising — during the World Cup. That amounts to roughly 1 percent of China’s total advertising budget for 2018.
Even among American brands making a major advertising push at the World Cup this year, the thrust of that advertising is very different, reports Digiday. Visa this year isn’t just looking for exposure through its Cup advertising push, but to “move the dial” on its business objective — according to recent briefs from creative agency AMV BBDO and media agency Starcom Worldwide. In particular, it is looking to see how its advertising efforts are bolstering their attempt to grow its share of the mobile commerce market, as well as to encourage consumers to use their Visa cards, instead of cash, around the world.
Lynne Biggar, chief marketing and communications officer at Visa, said, “We’re trying to get smart about the upfront briefing process to ensure that the insights used are really crisp and the objectives in place are really clear.”
She added that the effort is an ongoing exercise with the agencies designed to incentivize them to create more assets that can be targeted more specifically. And though the targeting is getting more specific, the range Visa is targeting is getting wider. For the World Cup this year, Visa made 20 versions of its ad — with variations created for TV, display, social, print and out-of-home in 45 markets and 24 languages.
They really don’t want to miss anyone — and the commerce actions that the 2018 World Cup is generating is very global.
In Brazil, TVs Are The Hot Purchase
Brazil describes itself as the “country of soccer,” so it’s not a surprise that they are avidly preparing for the biggest show on AstroTurf with a lot of shopping.
According to Reuters, though still more than a week away, the World Cup has already had a major impact on retailers in the self-described “country of soccer,” as football-happy Brazilians are rapidly buying up new televisions. Electronic retailers reported a spike in sales in recent months, pushed by a wave of discounting that has persuaded many to buy a new TV for the game.
“We’re seeing sales get stronger week after week as we get closer to the Cup,” said Commercial Director Fabio Gabaldo, of electronics and appliance chain and local eCommerce standout Magazine Luiza SA. To push sales, the chain was allowing consumers to pay for their new TVs — in part — by trading in their old ones.
The trend in Brazil has been visible in other parts of Latin America. Peru is making its first World Cup appearance in 36 years, and TV sales rose 25 percent from a year earlier in Q1.
However, TVs aren’t the only affected segments — brewing and food retail have also seen a recent spending spike.
And in Brazil, TV marketers are leveraging an unusual marketing strategy to push customers over the edge: superstition. Brazil hosted the last World Cup and was blasted out of the tournament by eventual winners Germany with a score of 7-1. Electronics merchants have a simple question for the views at home: Do they really want to take the chance that their TV is cursed — and that it could be their fault if Brazil doesn’t win this year?
“Are you really going to watch Brazil on the same TV as the 7-1 match?” an ad on Magazine Luiza’s website asks readers.
Meanwhile, In Nepal, Jerseys Are Selling Out
Sportswear retailers in India are expecting to sell millions of rupees worth of gear during the games this year — with a particularly big spike once the games begin in Russia next week. However, this year, merchants noted that sales are down from what they were during the 2014 World Cup at the same time — a situation, according to The Kathmandu Post, largely attributable to the sudden emergence of eCommerce in the region.
“The presence of online shops was relatively weak in 2015,” said Prem Jung Chhetri, proprietor of a sportswear shop in Sundhara. “Even low-priced jerseys do not attract customers.”
Chhetri noted that shop owners, to compete with the web, must decorate a bit more, and minimally feature flags of the countries participating in the World Cup in a bid to attract customers.
Shop owner Milan Basnet, on the other hand, noted that business had been strong so far this year — and that he expects big things through at least the first week of the competition.
“The craze for jerseys will boom after a week as the World Cup approaches,” said Chhetri.
Whether consumers will head out to the stores in Kathmandu, or order their jerseys to be delivered, remains to be seen.
Notably, in Nepal’s geographic neighbor Bangladesh, the year hasn’t just seen banner eCommerce growth regarding the World Cup, but an explosion of delivery services, even outside crowded urban regions.
Razib Ahmed, former president of the eCommerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), told The Daily Star, “Customers from rural areas are also purchasing huge volumes of products, which is a new phenomenon for this kind of business,” said
Another courier company, TikTok, local firm that mostly delivers eCommerce products, says it is now receiving about 3,000 orders each day — as the combined forces of the World Cup and Eid al-Fitr in the Muslim-majority country have skyrocketed demand for goods ordered online. Eid al-Fitr is the celebratory holidays that follows the fasting month of Ramadan for Muslims — celebrations vary, but feasting and gift-giving are both common features.
So, even if one isn’t excited about the World Cup this year, as an American, that person is likely in the majority. Around the world, people aren’t just excited about the soccer tournament — they are so excited that they are, in some markets, joining the digital economy to better participate.