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Marketers Are Ready for the 2022 World Cup

When Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, FIFA organizers broke with 92-years of tradition and shifted the global soccer event from summer to winter. That’s because temperatures in the small Arab country can reach upwards of 106 degrees Fahrenheit from May to September, which would spell danger for the players. This year’s World Cup is set to kick off on November 20 and run until December 18, creating new opportunities—and challenges—for marketers. Here’s a look at what you need to know.

New Marketing Opportunities
The FIFA World Cup ranks as the biggest global event in sports and presents an opportunity for brands to reach fans in far-flung destinations. In fact, Magna media agency predicts the soccer extravaganza will bump global ad revenue by an astonishing 9.2% for the year. The World Cup has been attracting large linear TV audiences for decades—that’s not news. But given its occurrence in the middle of the holiday shopping season, when brands are wrapping up autumnal campaigns (pumpkin spice, anyone?), planning for Black Friday, and considering Christmas, the marketing opportunities may be unprecedented. “This is an opportunity on TV we have never seen before on this scale,” said Yatin Patel, head of AV at Publicis Media Exchange. Around the world, advertisers are expected to buy television spots across both linear and streaming, reaching millions of consumers.

Though reservations have been expressed regarding host country Qatar and its documented record of human rights violations plus poor working conditions, marketers are expected to move forward with big-scale plans. “Despite the protestations, Qatar 2022 will be going ahead,” said Lee Mabey, DEI lead at Dentsu X. “Marketers need to consider the ethics of spending around the tournament, but this is not new territory.” In fact, many may plan to seize this chance and speak out against restrictive policies, pushing campaigns that advocate for social justice and equal rights.

Official Game Sponsor
Budweiser is no stranger to the game of soccer. “As sponsor of the FIFA World Cup for more than 30 years, we wanted to capture the infectious global energy of football fans everywhere to encourage people to find the conviction to go for greatness, no matter what the journey to get there might look like,” said Todd Allen, global VP of marketing. Part of that push comes with the release of a new spot showing three soccer icons—Lionel Messi (Argentina), Raheem Sterling (England) and Neymar Jr. (Brazil)—striding through a famous players’ tunnel before the start of a game. Set to Tears for Fears’ iconic song, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” the scene next turns into an explosion of fans, music, and motorbikes, drumming excitement for the upcoming festivities. The ad has already debuted in over 70 countries.

Of course, as the maker of an alcoholic beverage in a country where spirits are tightly regulated, parent company Ab InBev also had to get creative with its marketing efforts. Some initiatives focused on the group’s non-alcoholic beer, Budweiser Zero, which will be served in stadiums. Additional out-of-home activations included a global scavenger hunt featuring QR codes at locations deemed significant to athletes—like Wembley Stadium, where Sterling grew up, or the street in Argentina where Messi first started playing. Participants around the world took part in the giant game, emphasizing unity at a time of global strife. “This year’s tournament is a unifying global moment that celebrates the possibilities of what’s to come and the athletes that continue to inspire us,” said Allen.

Early Ads
Coca-Cola likewise got an early jump on World Cup action, launching a campaign called “Believing is Magic” that built on their previous “Real Magic” global platform. A 60-second hero spot sees a young fan open a bottle of Coke—and suddenly her world transforms. More fans appear from nowhere, turning an ordinary afternoon walk down the street into a celebratory parade honoring her home team’s win. “As a fan, we have to always believe anything is possible,” said Brad Ross, VP of global sports and entertainment marketing. “That’s where the magical dichotomy of Coca-Cola—one of the world’s oldest and most storied brands, but one that’s equally young at heart—comes to life.”

 In line with the brand’s focus on digitally driven work, this campaign will include an online hub seeking to unite disparate fans, plus three digital films highlighting the importance of team spirit. Called “Tattoo,” “Shave” and “Run,” each features promises made by fans if their team wins—“If we win, I’ll get a tattoo” is one example. “We’re excited about the opportunity to democratize the sport and take it to all corners of the globe,” said Ross. “We also see it as the world’s coming out party after years of lockdown.”

Despite some potential misgivings about where the World Cup will be played this year, both brands and fans are looking forward to game day. In fact, NBCUniversal announced that it had already sold roughly 90% of its ad inventory for the tournament by mid-August, more than 100 days prior to kickoff. Sony Pictures Television, Final Replay and FIFA will also release a 10-part docuseries called Moment of Truth about the 2022 global soccer event, providing never-before-seen access to archives, interviews and stars. We can’t wait to see what happens next.