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How Real-Time Marketing Won the 2014 World Cup

What a month this has been – for football fans and marketers alike! Over the last four weeks, the world has once more fallen in love with football, and all the frenzy that comes with it. The emotions, the elaborate commercials, surprising match results. And for the first time in the history of the World Cup, professional real-time marketing.

Different approaches to real-time marketing

All of the official sponsors of the World Cup ran huge traditional campaigns to get the most out of their partnership with FIFA. Only a few explored all the options on social. Let’s take a look at examples of those who leveraged real-time marketing:

Adidas took the most serious approach, as this AdAge article explains, spending about a year to prepare. They set up a team of more than 40 PR, marketing and advertising specialists in its World Cup headquarters for the duration of the event. Each was responsible for communicating around the events in Brazil before, during and after the games with real-time marketing content.

Adidas set the bar high for real time communications with a great mix of prepared content and timely execution. The above tweet was posted just after the final went into it’s second half

Others, such as Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, went for a more traditional approach. Their digital marketing activities were heavily concentrated on fan competitions and at-home experiences (http://worldcup.hyundai.com). They used social media channels to promote these events, while spicing it up with some branded content announcing the next matches in Brazil. In most cases, the content developed was heavily product focused, with less effort on real-time relevance.

At Hyundai, putting the product in the picture seems to have been more important than to focus on event relevance – in this example, the semi-final pairings look a little mixed up

Non-sponsors newsjack to get a share of the buzz

It is no secret that becoming an official partner or sponsor of the World Cup is a costly undertaking. FIFA is quite aggressive in protecting its intellectual property and those of its sponsors. The attempt to ban most players’ preferred headphones brand is testament to this. This makes it interesting to take a look at how other brands and companies tried to use real-time communications to get a share of the World Cup buzz through newsjacking.

The best examples were the many reactions to Luis Suárez’ biting incident by brands such as Snickers and Domino’s Pizza. They provided timely, humorous and entertaining content. This provides an example of how a brand’s relevance to the event is important to being successful at real-time communications.

On the other hand, brands can easily embarrass themselves; making it clear to everyone they just wanted a piece of the action by trying too hard to jump on the bandwagon. Opel in Germany, for example, paired a picture of one of their sports cars with the rather far-fetched statement “only the motor should have teeth #Suarez”. But about 18 hours after the event, this earned them only 11 retweets and even a negative comment.

Opel tried to ride the #Suarez train, but was simply not relevant enough and too late to the party

There’s still the chance for a lucky shot

Another rather surprising hero of non-sponsor content was Germany’s radio station Bayern3. On the day of the semi-final between Brazil and Germany, they released this ten second video  of a Brazil-themed cocktail glass being crushed by a German beer mug.

In the hours before the game, the clip gained respectable attention – unsurprisingly mainly in Germany. During Germany’s crushing defeat of Brazil, the clip went viral, with more than 11 million views from around the world in just a few days. One can absolutely ask what a local radio station gets out of a global viral YouTube hit? If nothing else, they at least demonstrated the station’s commitment to entertainment and spontaneity, which is their core brand message.

Key Takeaways

So what does all this say about real-time communications and what does it mean for your brand?

1)   The examples above have cemented real-time content as a genuine marketing tactic. Just like social media, it is here to stay. From the Super Bowl to the Oscars, consumers and stakeholders have gotten used to brands commenting on cultural, societal or sports events – whether they are official sponsors or not.

2)   Brands deciding to get involved need relevance to the event. So should the content. Trying too hard to be associated with a popular event will not work – nor will simply hijacking a trending hashtag.

3)   Real-time conversations may be mostly a mass-market, consumer trend now. However, the more common it gets, the more we will see it in B2B and more elite peer groups, especially around trade shows and industry events.

4)   While there’s always a chance of firing a lucky shot, brands should think carefully about levels of investment and potential ROI. Taking Adidas as an example, meticulous planning and preparation are a much safer bet.

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