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World Cup Triggers TV, Digital Ad Push


Powered by television spots and digital initiatives, the advertising frenzy connected to the 2014 FIFA World Cup will shift into high gear today when the world’s most popular sporting event opens with a match between Brazil and Croatia. In the United States, this World Cup is likely to generate more television advertising dollars than any previous incarnation of the soccer extravaganza. At Walt Disney Co., which will show all 64 of the matches being played in Brazil on its ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC channels, ad sales are running ahead of levels seen during the previous 2010 World Cup. “Demand is strong,” said Ed Erhardt, ESPN’s president of global customer marketing and sales. “We’ve got very little inventory left.”

While specific dollar figures weren’t available, media watchers predict that the price for a TV spot will be higher for this World Cup than in 2010. For that earlier tournament, advertisers paid an average of $389,000 for a 30-second commercial, up from $129,000 in 2006. The expected surge in 2014 World Cup advertising cost and spend is being driven by anticipation that more Americans will tune into this tournament – a belief influenced by kick off times that better suit stateside workday schedules and the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S. “It’s clearly resonating as a sport that’s mainstream in this country now,” Erhardt said.

As brands pump unprecedented dollars into World Cup television advertising in the U.S., they’re also taking the worldwide marketing battle for consumer attention to digital platforms, including social media, like never before. Adidas, for example, is running its largest ever campaign to support its sponsorship of the World Cup. Significantly, the brand has opted to spend more on digital marketing than TV ads. “This will undoubtedly be the most social World Cup ever and probably the most social event in history,” said Tom Ramsden, global brand marketing director for Adidas football.

Ramsden may be right. While a single match has yet to be played, Twitter notes there have already been more tweets about this summer’s tournament than the entire 2010 World Cup, which had previously accounted for the largest period of sustained activity for any event in the social network’s history. “In early March, we had already passed the total number of tweets generated around that tournament, so Brazil is huge,” said Lewis Wiltshire, the head of Twitter’s global World Cup effort.

Both Twitter and Facebook have launched special features to stay at the center of Web-based World Cup discussions. Twitter’s offerings include dedicated timelines, which aggregate tweets from major sources on the games, as well as “hashflags.” When users hashtag a three-letter country code, such as #BRA, the country’s flag will appear beside it. Meanwhile, Facebook users will be able to keep track of teams and players throughout the tournament in a special section called “Trending World Cup.” The hub, which is accessible via mobile devices, too, will include up-to-date scores, match highlights and a feed with tournament-related posts from friends, players and teams.

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