The 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 20th version of the tournament, reportedly drew a global audience of 3.2 billion, of which 2.7 million were from Singapore. According to Wali Khan, director of Sports Connect, in 2018's World Cup the presence of Asian brands, higher TV and internet penetration and comparatively better match timings in Russia compared to Brazil means that Singapore-based viewers rose to 3 million, while global viewership climbed to 3.4 billion.
A report by Amobee Brand Intelligence found that Yahoo.com and Dailymail.co.uk were the top publishers in the region for updates around the games. Singaporean viewers primarily turned to Yahoo, as did a chunk of viewers from the Philippines, while Daily Mail was the go-to source for fans in Malaysia and New Zealand.
Amobee Brand Intelligence also revealed that audiences in Singapore and Malaysia sought content around the 2018 FIFA World Cup prior to matches airing in order to stay up to date, taking up the bulk of the 8pm to 11pm local time slots. In contrast, fans in Australia and New Zealand primarily consumed World Cup content between 9am and 4pm local time on the weekdays, which suggests that the event took up share of mind even during working hours.
Non-official sponsors hacking the games
Maxis, a Malaysia-based communications service provider, applied a two-pronged approach for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The first hinged on proving the brand's promise as the lead broadcast sponsor of coverage by Radio Televisyen Malaysia, which broadcasted 41 matches: of these, 28 were telecast live and 13 delayed. The second approach was a distribution strategy that offered customers an incentive to watch all 64 matches for RM1 per match, across all screens, via Astro GO passes.
"With the growing device and screen proliferation amongst Malaysians, the time was right for us to bring this global sporting event directly to our customers through their devices, anywhere and anytime," said Tai Kam Leong, head of brand and partnerships at Maxis. "And because it coincided with the festive season, we decided to tie the elements of Raya and “balik kampung” ['return to village', a Malay term to signify people returning home during festive periods] celebrations together to amplify the culture of togetherness, providing Malaysians with more choices to keep up with all the latest action and matches with family and friends. Essentially, we made the most of an ideal timeframe and a massive global event, uniquely for all Malaysians."
In Singapore, meanwhile, according to Sport Connect's Khan, standout activations came from Foodpanda and Deliveroo, which created special deals during halftime breaks on late night games, resulting in an uptick in orders. Telco operator Circles.Life also scored well.
"Circles.Life had a simple game on its app for some matches: guess the winner and get additional data," said Khan. "They saw a three times increase in daily engagement on their app through this simple and effective campaign."
Khan also considers the presence of Apple's AirPod headphones at the tournament a brilliant way of ambushing the event.
"FIFA is notoriously strict on not letting any logos barring its official partners be seen associated with the tournament," said Khan. "Apple’s AirPods have no logo on them but with their distinct style are unique and easily identifiable. From Mexican stars [Guillermo] Ochoa and Chicharito [Javier Hernandez] to English stars [Jesse] Lingard and Kyle Walker to Neymar, all were sporting the AirPods."
Return on investment? Brands as sponsors
Pulling Southeast Asia-based digital content engagement data between 14 May and 13 June, the brand intelligence team at Amobee found that of the official FIFA sponsors and partners, McDonald’s had the highest share of 'voice' within World Cup conversations online — 41% — with Adidas having a 25% share of voice.
Once the game began and viewers saw Adidas' custom-made kits for many of the competing countries and its logo on the official game ball, the share of voice for Adidas spiked to 51% of brand-related digital content engagement, while the share of voice for McDonald’s fell to 29%. (Viewed as the breakout uniform of the tournament, the Nigerian team’s World Cup kit, designed and sponsored by non-official sponsor and Adidas rival Nike, led the sports apparel brand to experience a 160% lift in tweets on 1 June, compared to the daily average tweets from 22 April to 15 July.)
In refusing to accept the Budweiser-branded “Man of the Match” award due to his Islamic faith forbidding the consumption of alcohol, Egypt’s goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy helped the pale lager brand, one of five official sponsors, achieve a 508% increase by percentage in the brand share of voice around the World Cup.
Amobee's report cites Coca-Cola as the partner with the greatest impact on social media, especially on Twitter, for audiences based in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Compared to the daily average Coca-Cola-related tweets between 22 April and 16 July, the carbonated soft drink brand saw a 2,287% increase in the volume of tweets after announcing it had chosen BTS, a K-Pop superstar band, as the models for their campaign set to run during the World Cup.
"Coca-Cola’s #PickYourTeam campaign in Malaysia and Singapore did a fantastic job teasing football fans and enthusiasts," said Jenifer Ooi, creative director at Lion & Lion. "Especially the way the campaign managed to engage with 'cupturalists', a term defined for individuals who want to be part of the FIFA World Cup fever but do not understand the major technicalities or have an emotional connection to the players and teams."
The #PickYourTeam campaign videos showed Coca-Cola’s limited edition cans as players and fans, recreating almost real-time match drama and excitement in a localised and colloquial manner with key Malaysian and Singapore influencers.
With traditional sponsors absent from this year's FIFA World Cup, due in part to reputational issues, brands from China took full advantage. For audiences based in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines, digital content engagement for first-time sponsor MengNiu, a Chinese dairy company, increased by 228% on 12 June, the day the brand first aired its campaign featuring Lionel Messi, compared to the daily average between 14 June-15 July.
Amobee Brand Intelligence reports a 125% increase in digital content engagement around kitchen appliance brand Vatti on 14 July, compared to the average during the tournament. This was due to a promotion that promised full refunds on a range of products purchased in June if the French team won the World Cup.
We all know how that turned out.
"While no Asia Pacific team broke through on the pitch this cycle, there was plenty of World Cup activity both around Asia Pacific brands and brands targeting local audiences," said Dillon Lim, VP of Amobee. "For a tentpole event like the World Cup where campaigns are in flight across multiple countries with audiences embracing different aspects of messaging, having an agile ability to analyze and optimize what’s connecting with each precise audience segment is critical."
To conclude, sponsoring and partnering with the 2018 FIFA World Cup paid off for the advertisers that activated a contextual presence communicating their core value propositions, with measurable lifts in brand salience.