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Three Advertising Trends from World Cup 2018

The US National Team may not be participating in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but interest from advertisers seems to be as strong as ever. According to a recent report in Ad Age, all 48 of the soccer tournament’s first round matches on Fox and Telemundo sold out of ad inventory earlier than anticipated. In fact, TV and advertising executives alike have high hopes for this year’s global sports spectacle, for more reasons than one. “We think this will be the biggest, most lucrative World Cup to air on English-language TV,” said Mike Petruzzi, senior VP of ad sales, Fox Sports Media Group in the Ad Age article. Why are they so excited? Here are three advertising trends helping to drive this year’s World Cup frenzy.

A Testing Ground for New Innovation
The most obvious reason that advertisers flock to World Cup programming is the audience size. After all, who wouldn’t want be associated with a live sports event watched by billions of viewers around the world? But it turns out that this year’s tournament is also a hotbed of advertising innovation. Consider the example of World Cup sponsor Budweiser, who is complementing its traditional TV campaign with a focused effort on Snapchat. The beer maker will be utilizing vertical video, interactive “photo filters” and special augmented reality features that add an interactive layer to its TV creative. Yet another example comes from the English Football Association, which has been experimenting with an augmented reality technology that lets them customize the advertising targeted to World Cup viewers based on whatever screen they happen to be watching.

Creating a Summer Surge
Another interesting side effect of this summer’s World Cup is that it’s encouraging big-spending advertisers to invest more than usual in ad campaigns during the typically slower summer months. In the US, live sports events like the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Championship often help boost TV ad spending well into the month of June. But with both sporting events ending after relatively short four and five-game series, that has left a vacuum of “tentpole” TV programming that’s been filled by the World Cup. “In a traditional second quarter, advertising money would be tighter for some of these brands, said Larry Mann, executive vice president, media and business development at sports marketing firm rEvolution in an interview with Forbes. “But with a four-game NBA Finals and a five-game Stanley Cup Finals, brands find they have more money to spend.”

Highlighting the Growing Clout of Chinese Brands
The international flair of the World Cup has also made it a big draw for advertisers looking to gain attention with a big global audience. In the past this meant that many US and European advertisers were front and center with World Cup viewers. But due to some controversy surrounding Russia, this year’s World Cup host country, some western brands choose to sit out this year’s tournament. In their absence, some of 2018’s biggest World Cup advertisers are from China. Even though the Chinese team did not qualify for the tournament this year, Chinese firms like entertainment company Wanda Group and dairy company Mengniu are spending big to build their international brand awareness. According CNBC, Chinese advertising spend during the World Cup will total $835 million, more than double the ad spend by US companies during the same period. While much of this ad spend today will be aimed at the domestic Chinese market, it’s not that far-fetched to imagine a scenario where more Chinese brands appeal more directly to international consumers in the near future.

The World Cup continues to be one of the world’s most watched media events, a sporting phenomenon that’s beloved by consumers and advertisers alike. And as you might expect with such a high-profile viewing event, advertisers are pulling out all the stops for this year’s event. Whether it’s experimentation with surprising types of ad technology, an unexpected surge in ad spending on national campaigns during the typical slow summer period, or the growth of new brands from China on the world stage, the World Cup continues to offer a media spectacle that’s full of advertising superlatives.