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World Cup to boost global ad spend by $2.4bn

David Murphy

This summer’s FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia will add $2.4bn (£1.8bn) to the global advertising market, according to new research by Zenith. This will be the net amount of money added to the market, taking into account both the extra money spent by advertisers seeking to reach World Cup audiences, and any reductions in spending by advertisers who wish to avoid the period.

Zenith notes that the World Cup creates valuable opportunities for advertisers. TV coverage attracts huge audiences across the world, with around 3.5bn people viewing at home in more than 200 countries during a part of the year when, in the northern hemisphere at least, TV audiences are typically at their annual low point.

In addition to producing large audiences – in some countries, the largest of the year – the World Cup disproportionately attracts people who are hard to reach on TV: young, upmarket and mobile consumers who are more likely to spend their time outside the home and adopt the latest media technologies.

For brands, Zenith notes, the World Cup offers a unique opportunity to reach these consumers at scale, during shared public occasions they are emotionally involved in. Because of the time zones in which the matches will take place, around 40 per cent of the potential audience will be asleep when they are played. This means viewers will seek out alternative ways of viewing matches. While for some this may simply mean watching matches broadcast on time delay, or viewing time-shifted live matches, young sports fans in particular have become used to viewing small nuggets of games on social media.

Given this trend, Zenith believes that social media will play a greater role in viewing the World Cup than ever before, but in moments rather than full matches, with the actual matches only forming part of the story. The World Cup is great at starting conversations, and here social media will also play a vital role as fans discuss matches in real time and share their favourite moments later.

Zenith expects to see heavy paid social activity around the matches as brands seek to join the conversation. The tournament will also create extra traffic for news and sports sites, and extra searches, so will boost wider online advertising beyond social media. Newspapers are likely to sell more copies during the tournament, and football-related out-of-home campaigns will be prominent, particularly around the stadiums where the matches take place.

Russia will benefit from a $64m boost in ad spend, representing 2.1 per cent of all Russian advertising expenditure in 2018. The biggest boost in dollar terms will occur in China, where Zenith expects the World Cup to generate $835m in additional ad spend, equating to 1 per cent of the entire Chinese ad market.

There are few established brand relationships with the Word Cup in China, and this year advertisers have been aggressively bidding to establish their association with football. Some advertisers that had been planning to cut back their expenditure on TV decided to increase it instead, specifically to take advantages of the opportunities offered by the World Cup. So for brands in China this will be the most important World Cup yet, despite the absence of the Chinese national team.

Zenith expects the US to receive a $400m boost to ad spend this year. The US team’s failure to qualify for the tournament, for the first time in more than three decades, is likely to reduce audiences, particularly given the large time differences with Russia. So Zenith believes the event will boost the US market by just 0.2 per cent of total annual expenditure this year.

“The World Cup provides a reliable boost to the global ad market every four years, and will be responsible for 10 per cent of all the growth in ad dollars this year,” said Jonathan Barnard, Zenith’s head of forecasting and director of global intelligence. “This year’s tournament will showcase the brand-building powers of both traditional television and social media.”

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