Three Things the Women’s World Cup Reveals about Social Media Marketing

By Alyssa Nejaime  | 

It’s not often that brands have the opportunity to get in front of 1 billion viewers, but this year’s Women’s World Cup offered just that, along with the chance to be part of a global phenomenon and connect with highly passionate, engaged fans. But succeeding at cultural marketing is a tricky business. Done wrong, it can do more damage than good.

To help advertisers strike the right tone, MediaPost conducted a nationwide online survey in advance of the World Cup to measure awareness and interest among adults in the U.S. Based on the findings, the publication predicted that ads that inspire, challenge current conventions and spark meaningful dialogues would take home the gold. In the end, MediaPost was right. Nike, Visa, Qatar Airlines, Budweiser and a few others bolstered traditional TV and digital campaigns with social strategies that tapped into the impassioned conversations happening online around the actual matches as well as the issues surrounding them. Here are a few key learnings.

Video Reigns Supreme on Social
Before the games even started, big brands were scoring big with social video. In the 90 days leading up to the first match, 850 branded videos with content related to the Women’s World Cup were published online, racking up a combined total of 71.2 million views across all social media platforms, according to video measurement company Tubular.

The top performers all created big budget, visually compelling, sentimental video that celebrated women’s soccer and sports in general, following themes of female empowerment and achievement. These ads went viral by accumulating millions of interactions (including likes and shares), which ultimately underscored the unmatched value of video for connecting with viewers through the power of inspirational storytelling.

Join the Conversation
But while video storytelling helps brands engage viewers through shared values and interests, it’s a one-sided interaction; true connection with consumers requires more direct dialogue on relevant issues of the moment. And, studies show that today’s audiences now expect brands to join the conversation around sports events – and viewers pay attention to what those brands are saying. A significant 36% of football fans say they are likely to buy a sponsor’s product if they generate social content about a football event such as the Women’s World Cup.

The winning brands took to Twitter to show support for the teams, find common ground with fans and generate excitement and interest in content that would later appear on more traditional platforms. Minutes after the US team won its second consecutive championship — and fourth overall — Nike launched a 60-second ad on Twitter that celebrated both the US victory and the role it would play in the battle to achieve pay equity, one of the biggest off-pitch issues surrounding the games. That ad gave Nike the largest share of voice in the brand contest with 51.3%, earning 323,000 shares and likes from 20.5 million views. In a similar tactic, Budweiser tweeted out its intent to continue supporting the team beyond the contest, showing its commitment to another timely issue—that of team sponsorship and financing.

Connecting the Dots
To date, it’s been difficult for brands to connect social media successes with concrete business objectives. But Nike’s social media efforts had a direct and very measurable financial impact. Thanks in large part to its social presence among the fan conversations, the company sold 200% more jerseys than the previous tournament, making the 2019 jersey the best-selling of all time.

For Nike and the other brands that earned prominence on social, the key going forward will be to maintain social strategy that goes beyond the World Cup itself – to show a true commitment to women’s soccer rather than simply taking advantage of the high interest around the games.

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