Who were the winners in the ‘social’ World Cup?

This year’s World Cup in Brazil has been about sharing the experience. There have been screen parties held in cities all over the world. But most of the sharing has been done over social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter. And as we examined in a previous blog the way we have watched and interacted during this world cup has been very different to those that have gone before, and this is especially true with social media.

The final truly highlights how successful the two main platforms, Facebook and Twitter, have been. The World Cup final was the most discussed sporting event ever on Facebook, with over 88 million users and 280 million interactions. “We knew the World Cup was going to be big, but this level of engagement is remarkable.” Nick Grudin (Facebook Director of Global Media partnerships) told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Twitter recorded 32.1 million tweets during the final match, with the peak hitting 618,725 tweets per minute by the time the final whistle blew. The incredible semi-final loss of Brazil to Germany generated even more interest, with 36.5 million tweets. This was a truly international trend as well, as the map below shows. It highlights where the tweet hotspots were during the peak of the match, clearly showing the worldwide appeal of the World Cup on Twitter.

A heatmap of the world showing where most tweets were made

What is clear is that usage for Twitter went up during the tournament. There were 300 million tweets during the group stages of the tournament, with an average of 5.9 million tweets per game. By the quarter finals this figure had gone up to an average of 7.3 million per game and 24.9 million in the semi-finals. Overall there were 672 million tweets during the whole World Cup tournament. To put this into perspective, there were more tweets about this World Cup before a ball had even been kicked than for the entire World Cup in 2010. (Source: Twitter)

Other platforms were also determined to be part of the sharing phenomenon. Fifa’s Instagram account had nearly 1 million followers, but this is tiny in comparison to the Brazilian team. Members of Brazil’s team got over 60 million likes and comments, more than every other World Cup player combined! Neymar lead the way with 8.8 million followers, his selfie with the team (below) getting 1.27 million likes. (Source: Mashable)

A tweeted selfie image of Neymar and the rest of the Brazilian football team

Instagram were also put on the map during the final by American NBA star LeBron James. He captured a video of Vitaly Zdorovetskiy’s streak across the pitch, which he put up on his Instagram account. So far it has over 350,000 likes and has gone viral.

Snapchat and YouTube are also not to be forgotten. Snapchat made its presence felt by transporting their users to the final game through the use of their new ‘our story’ feature and the #RioLive story thread. There were mixed reviews to the feature and no stats have been released as to its success. But Snapchat seems to have used this as an experiment on how to roll out a campaign across all its users for large events.

YouTube has also been crucial for Fifa and other brands. Nearly all the companies who created them put their World Cup themed ads on YouTube, and there was a war going on for views before the tournament even started. Cristiano Ronaldo, part of Nike’s world cup push, tweeted about Nike’s second World Cup ad on YouTube, generating over 70 million views of the ad within days. (Source: Profoundry)

But the outright winner of the YouTube ad wars has to be Shakira, who was sponsored by Activia. Her performance of the song La La La during the closing ceremony topped 1.5 million views and the official video of the song now has over 230 million views. (YouTube). This clearly demonstrates the power of YouTube and the impact it has in the digital marketing arena. With over 1.2 billion minutes of World Cup ads having been watched on YouTube alone one thing is certain, online advertising is a growth market!

An infographic of the key stats for the World Cup in 2014

It wasn’t just individuals using the social media sites to interact during the tournament, big brands have too. Adidas, Castrol, Nike, MacDonalds, Samsung and Activia have seen the digital side of this World Cup as key to their marketing activities. In the last world cup only 20% of marketing spend was digital, but the take up for this one has been considerably higher. About half of Adidas’ media spend around the event went online, in comparison to one fifth in the last World Cup. (Source: Profoundry)

Some of these companies got it right and others not quite so much. A study carried out during the tournament by Encore Alert examined big brands and the uplift garnered by their tweets using the global hashtag #worldcup. Of the 18 companies they examined, only 8 had positive lifts. These companies included Castrol, Budweiser and Adidas, who had insightful, well timed, brand relevant tweets that saw an average increase of engagement of 279%, although Castrols uplift was a staggering 21960%!

According to the research, the other 10 companies, including giants MacDonalds, Pepsi and Mastercard, sent out poorly planned and half gusto tweets. On average, these decreased their twitter engagement by 47%. (Source: EncoreAlert.com)

So, those that got it right, got it really right. However, those that got it wrong lost a lot of traction. Take KLM; they posted ‘Adios Amigos!’ on Twitter after Mexico was beaten in the group stages and they came in for a huge backlash. KLM did apologise for the tweet and deleted it from its timeline, but with over 10,000 retweets it is not something they can easily get rid of.

As well as the big brands that you expect to see using Twitter for advertising, there have also been a few brands that come as a surprise, including the National Geographic, Oreo and eBay. Similarly country-specific content also had a big uplift with content created by Listerine specifically for Costa Rica and Argentina being some of the most retweeted and favourite content on Twitter. (Source: Adweek.com)

The tournament has clearly shown that people around the world have enjoyed sharing their World Cup experiences through social media and have not wanted their experience to be diluted with heavy marketing. For the companies that have got it right, like Adidas, the exposure they have had across multiple channels has been worth every penny. Adidas gained 5.8 million followers across the social media platforms and received 1.59 million mentions on social media during the tournament (Source: Adweek.com).

The reason for this was that their campaign was well planned, carefully crafted and conducted with purpose. These are lessons that all Marketing Managers can learn from and ultimately succeed in the social arena.

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