FIFA World Cup 2018, which kicks off in Russia next week, will captivate audiences around the world and provide fertile ground for brands to cultivate their relationships with valuable audiences.

About 3.5 billion people will watch the television coverage at home in more than 200 countries, during a season when, in the northern hemisphere at least, television audiences are at their annual low point. As well as producing large audiences – in some countries, the largest of the year – the World Cup disproportionately attracts people who are hard to reach on television: young, upmarket and mobile consumers who are more likely to spend their time outside the home and adopt the latest media technologies. The World Cup gives brands a unique opportunity to reach these consumers at scale, during shared public occasions they are emotionally involved in.

Because of the time zones in which the matches will take place, about 40% of the potential audience will be asleep when they are played. This means viewers will seek out alternative ways of viewing matches. While for some this may simply mean watching matches broadcast on time delay, or viewing time-shifted live matches, young sports fans in particular have become used to viewing small nuggets of games on social media. Social media will play a greater role in viewing the World Cup than ever before, but in moments rather than full matches.

The matches themselves are only part of the story. The World Cup is great at starting conversations, and here social media will also play a vital role as fans discuss matches in real time and share their favourite moments later. We expect heavy paid social activity around the matches as brands seek to join the conversation.

The tournament will also create extra traffic for news and sports sites, and extra searches, so will boost wider online advertising beyond social media. Newspapers are likely to sell more copies during the Cup, and football-related out-of-home campaigns will be prominent, particularly around the stadiums where the matches take place.

All this adds up to a substantial boost to global advertising expenditure. Zenith have conducted exclusive research that shows that the tournament will add US$2.4bn to the global ad market this year.

Of course, while the World Cup is a great platform for advertising, it is also one of the prime events for sport sponsorship. Brands will spend up to US$200m for a sponsorship package, and given this huge investment they need to be sure that they are receive a return on their investment, and understand what success looks like and how to achieve it. For some brands, such as Hisense and Qatar Airways, the tournament is about bringing their brands to the global stage; for longer standing sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Adidas, it’s about creating an association with world-class footballers and an event that has the power to bring people together.

Further reading

World Cup to boost global adspendChina will see biggest boost in ad dollars

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