We all know the World Cup is a brand marketer's dream.  With an estimated worldwide audience of over 4 billion people watching (compared to 108 million who watched the Super Bowl), the World Cup will boost ad spending globally in 2014 by $1.5B USD, most of it in Latin America (approximately $300M more in the US).

While ad spending is one metric of the World Cup's impact, what about the dollars spent creating content for social media publishing? We’ve already seen big wins emerge from digital content created by SnickersVolkswagenVisaBeats MusicNike and Adidas.

These wins have come as a result of brands using a combination of great storytelling, playing into the global excitement of the matches and riffing on real-time and trending moments.  Another key ingredient has been distribution.  This World Cup is the most fragmented ever when it comes to viewing patterns.  Even in huge TV markets like the US, matches airing during work hours are driving fans to watch from the office on their desktops, mobile apps and non-cable hook-ups like Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

Now that we're more than halfway through the tournament, let's look at some of the winners and losers of World Cup 2014.


1. Twitter is winning the engagement wars

Facebook boasts that 94% of consumers intend to visit Facebook while they watch the matches, but clearly, Twitter is winning the engagement war for branded content as the Snickers "Bite" Post demonstrates.

Twitter vs Facebook

Looks like Twitter won the day for Snickers and the amazing response they created when the Suarez "Bite" heard round the world went down yesterday:  Thanks to Rhys Hillman for the original tweet, comparing the engagement results from Facebook and Twitter: "Engagement on 11 Million Fans Vs 50,000 Followers, same post, same time. - Facebook Organic Reach is 100% Dead."

2. Micro-Content is winning everything 

Brands like Volkswagen, McDonalds, Visa, Listerine and even The Girl Scouts are showing how short, simple and compelling content can compete with big budget digital films and TV advertising.

Luis "Samoa" Suárez Bites a Thin Mint

Have you ever wondered what Girl Scout Cookies do in their off-season?

3. Search is still a marketer's best friend

With so much content being published across multiple channels (TV, Websites, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc) throughout the month long viewing event, it can be difficult to keep up with all the great content fans are talking about over the water cooler and online.  Additionally, brands who publish their content on SEO friendly web pages deliver even more views and engagement.  Not all social networks play nicely with search.


1. Brands who forget to plan for a month-long tent pole event

This year the World Cup runs from June 11 to July 13.  That's one of the biggest viewing windows that many brands will ever have to support with campaign messaging.  While it's easy to buy media that will strategically position you against the major events during the World Cup calendar, planning your content production can be more difficult, especially if you're trying to riff on real-time events like Volkswagen is doing with its "Goooooooolf" short videos.  VW clearly started their planning and resource allocation well in advance to produce all of these amazing real-time videos. Every day of the World Cup is an opportunity to fire up your consumers and catch a spark from trending content.  

Go England! The All-New VW Golf GTI Celebrates a Goal from England

Celebrate and share every goal from England with the VW Golf GTI. 

2. Video streaming apps need to figure out video advertising

Viewing behaviors are increasingly shifting away from traditional set-top box TV and moving to web, mobile, tablet and other streaming app options.  Stability woes have plagued streaming apps like WatchESPN while they try to support record-breaking concurrent live viewing sessions.  ESPN has logged over 30 million viewing hours through their streaming products, surpassing the Olympics, which had been the biggest online streaming event to date with 20.4 million viewing hours on NBC (only 13 million of those were live). So why can't they figure out video advertising?  A big hurdle is addressable video for geo-targeting and local market deals, yet they're still missing out on a huge revenue opportunity. With the type of content now in production for digital and mobile, there's an opportunity to make the in-match video ads incredibly entertaining for fans.

3. #Hashtags

Who could have predicted how meh the World Cup branded hashtag game has been?  Fans are definitely using the official hashtags and Twitter is once again winning with the way hashtag + country abbreviation produces flag icons.  But where are the viral branded hashtags?  And is anyone really paying attention to the hashtags we're seeing on screen during the matches?  Maybe the golden age of brand hashtags has finally come to an end.

PENALTY KICKS (brands who committed a foul)

1. Know your geography

Delta's social media team decided to post a picture of a giraffe alongside the Statue of Liberty when they congratulated Team USA for their goal during their first round match with Ghana, a country in the sub-region of West Africa.  Problem is there are no giraffe's in Ghana, which Delta learned quickly as responses to the initial tweet poured in.

What Do Giraffes Have To Do With Ghana?

No, seriously: What do giraffes have to do with Ghana?

2. Know how the tournament works

Denny's was quick to console USA fans after the team's loss to Germany in the match that determined whether they would advance to the round of 16. Problem is that even though they lost, Team USA advanced because the first round scoring is based on overall points, not wins-losses. Once again, Twitter came to the rescue in educating the brand on how exactly the World Cup works.

Denny's Doesn't Understand How The World Cup Works

In Denny's defense, the whole thing is somewhat confusing.

3. Goofing up the spelling of the product you're trying to spoof

Waffle House had a golden opportunity when Team USA played Belgium in their first knock-out round match.  The good news is they definitely hit viral gold with their Waffle tweet.  The bad news is they had a self-described "blonde moment" and forgot that they're actually "Belgian" Waffles, not "Belgium" Waffles.  Still funny.   

FREE KICKS (aka, what we've learned from the World Cup content-a-palooza)

To wrap this up, there are definitely some great takeaways from what we've seen so far, and we can't wait to see how brands continue to activate during this amazing worldwide event.

1. Harmless goof ups in your social media posts may actually drive engagement and awareness for your brand.  Is this a new strategy?

2. Content discovery is everything.  Don't let your best content go un-noticed in a dead-end timeline silo.

3. As app-based mobile viewing is increasing, advertisers need to own this channel just as they do TV. Don't wait for the media companies to catch up, start incubating your own solutions and demand integration.

By Andrea Harrison