Wesley Harris

First Published on Soccerex

The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is now into its second week and entering the latter stages of the group stages. Just as national teams and vested countries around the world are taking measure of their club’s position in the chase for the coveted World Cup, brands are taking stock of their position and success thus far in consumer and fan engagement versus the competition.

Earlier this month, Business of Soccer compared the two biggest brands in the soccer industry, Adidas and Nike, with regards to their social media footprint heading into the World Cup.

READ: Adidas vs. Nike: A Global Power Struggle Hinged on the World Cup

Now that we have a couple of weeks under our belts, it would be helpful to understand the landscape of brand sponsors and non-sponsors alike to see how they are fairing with consumers. GlobalWebIndex (GWI) did just that in a report that captured the online responses of real-time consumer panels in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. The panelists were asked to identify a set of various brands, both official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup as well as some of their non-sponsor competitors, and tell GWI whether or not they believed each brand was indeed an official World Cup sponsor.

An article from Marketing Magazine highlights that this report indicated that there are several brands, Nike included, that a large portion of consumers mistakenly believed were official sponsors of the World Cup. Mastercard, which ceased its partnership with FIFA after the 2006 World Cup, had the highest mistaken association with over 30% of panelists in all three countries believing that it was still a sponsor, and upwards of 45% in Brazil. Nike also faired well, with about 30% of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. and over 40% in Brazil thinking that it was a sponsor of the World Cup. The good news for all of the sponsors that shelled out the cash for the official FIFA World Cup sponsor title scored higher in terms of recognition from the panelists than their competitors.

The question now is what has enabled the companies to lead such successful campaigns, other than fan ignorance and naivety? The answer is social media. Ten years ago, brands like Nike would not have been able to come nearly as close as within 10% (estimated) as their rival Adidas for consumer recognition as being a World Cup sponsor. TV ads certainly help and are certainly an essential piece to any campaign, but the way the digitally savvy consumer culture now all but requires a social media component for any initiative to succeed. It also allows those companies that do not get to tie FIFA or the World Cup to their brand for the biggest sporting event in the world the opportunity to get back in the game, in a manner of speaking.

Some might not know that for those companies relying heavily on social media to penetrate the market, like Nike, Brazil was just about the perfect place for the World Cup to be hosted, given its social media climate relative to the rest of the world. Facebook dominates the social media realm by a large margin, and Brazil just so happens to be the second largest market for Facebook in the World, according to a recent report from REPUCOM. Nike has more than 2x the number of Facebook “likes” as their rivals Adidas. Though they lagged slightly in followers of the brands official YouTube channel when compared to Adidas, Nike released several branded videos around its “Risk Everything” campaign leading up to the World Cup that were received with great response from fans. Fun fact – Brazil is also the second largest market in the world for YouTube in terms of unique visitors. Brazil also has a 4.41% share rate for branded videos, which is 3.4 times more than the global average of 1.31%, and video campaigns have also been found to be up to 300% more impactful than other mediums in driving consumer engagement.

You tie all this together and you end up with a perfect storm scenario for brands like Nike that rely heavily on social media for driving their business and engaging with their fans worldwide. When you take into account other factors of brand recognition like kit sponsorship (Nike 10 national teams, Adidas 9 at 2014 World Cup), high profile players wearing Nike boots (Christiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Neymar), it is easy to see how Nike could make this World Cup its most successful event in the brand’s history.

By Wes Harris, Managing Editor, Business of Soccer


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