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Posted on Fri 27th Jun, 2014 in: Industry Comment, Influence, Public Relations, Social Media by Christian Dente

I love football. I grew up with football. Most of my early memories involve football in one way or another. I'm 27 but I still remember all the furore around Gazza being booked against West Germany in Italia 90. I couldn't tell you what I had for lunch a month ago, but I can tell you where I was, what I was wearing and what I was doing on July 17th 1994. If you're interested I was in bed at my Nan's house in Scarborough, wearing Jurassic Park PJs and crying that my hero Roberto Baggio had just missed a penalty that would've given the Azzuri its fourth World Cup title.

Unfortunately I'm a man obsessed with sport, and the World Cup in particular. I seem to have acquired a super memory that allows me to remember everything during a six week period every four years. This has also benefited me with a statto-esque memory of pointless facts, none of which impress my long-suffering girlfriend but do create some very stimulating conversations between my mates at the pub and now online.

Today I'll be lucky enough to be able to create hard copies of my 2014 World Cup memories by using social media to record exactly where I was via checking-in at my local on Facebook, tweeting my #WorldCupSelfie on Twitter and uploading an Insta-video of my me and my mates celebrating Wayne Rooney's goal against Uruguay, allowing us ten gloriously deluded minutes of beautiful hope. What's more is that I'll be able to neatly compile my 2014 World Cup memories in a cute little video montage on Vine. Might not be able to find enough England highlights to fill five seconds though.

With a plethora of social media platforms available for users to share their World Cup experiences with each other, Brazil 2014 is by far the most social World Cup in history. Twitter saw more tweets before the competition actually kicked off than it did during the whole of the 2010 tournament in South Africa, with the term "World Cup" generating over 19 million social mentions up to June 2014 and the opening game of the 2014 World Cup between Brazil and Croatia receiving 12 million tweets during the match. That's an average of 135,555 tweets per minute. 135,555 per minute!

During the first week of the World Cup, Facebook had already recorded more mentions of the tournament than it had for the Sochi Winter Olympics, Super Bowl and Academy Awards combined. A total of 141 million people have commented about, "liked" or shared posts on Facebook about the World Cup since it kicked off on 12th June. And to highlight the global appeal of the World Cup, 90% of the world (196 countries) contributed to the conversation on social.

Combine that with the fact that 61% of Brits now 'dual-screen' while they're watching TV and the fact that 77% of us are influenced on social media by what we see on TV, the opportunities for brands to piggyback on this global phenomenon and interact with consumers becomes compelling. By creating reactive, valuable content during key games, brands can speak to a new, switched-on, audience hungry for football-related content, therefore growing their existing social community and driving their social equity. The World Cup is a pie that everyone wants a slice of.

It may seem obvious but us football fans are a fickle lot. Which is why it' s important for brands when tweeting about the World Cup to create valuable, and more importantly, relevant content that will drive meaningful conversations amongst us obsessives. Get it right and you'll be loved. Get it wrong and you'll be mocked, and mocked with vigour, after unapologetically jumping on a bandwagon to broadcast your brand message, therefore weakening your social community and social equity. As Thumper once said "If you don't have anything (nice) to say, don't say anything at all."?

With such noise in an enormously crowded environment, brands need to take extreme action to stand out in what is likely to be the biggest social global event in 2014. So who's winning? Here's a few of my favourite social campaigns to date:

Paddy Power - as always the messiah of reactive content Paddy Power has been providing humorous updates throughout the World Cup via its Twitter and Facebook feed. Kudos for the Suarez Pringles tweet. Genius. But it peaked just before England's friendly kicked off against Ecuador with a rather controversial good luck message posted via its Twitter account. Paddy Power unveiled it had carved the message "C'MON ENGLAND"? into the rainforest, a.k.a. the Lungs of the World. The stunt kicked up a storm of controversy when people thought thousands of trees had been cleared in an area that has seen a tremendous amount of deforestation over the past thirty years, just for a PR stunt. And the Irish bookmaker didn't half receive a torrent of abuse for being so bloody irresponsible.

However, 24 hours after the frenzy, and trending globally, Paddy Power revealed another similar image saying "WE DIDN'T GIVE THE AMAZON A BRAZILIAN"? confirming that the original image was in fact a fake. Paddy Power aimed to raise awareness about deforestation of the rainforest with the stunt, and did so the only way it knew how, amidst a storm of controversy. Both Paddy Power and #SaveTheRainforest trended on Twitter as anger turned to praise. Over 160,000 people visited Paddy Power's blog in 24 hours to see just how and why the bookies fooled the world. A spokesperson said "We knew we'd drop off a fair few Christmas card lists yesterday, but we couldn't resist a bit of fake Twitter mischief to highlight an important issue to football fans as our World Cup warm-up."?

Mario Balotelli & Panini - why always him? The controversial Italian has been up to it again during the World Cup, generating widespread media coverage for his social media antics, including asking for a kiss from The Queen, on the cheek obviously. But what really made the news was his update on Facebook of his rather unique sticker collection. One that contained an entire team full of Balotellis.

Mario Balotelli Facebook update

Boffins worked out that to fill just the Italy team with JUST stickers of Mario Balotelli would cost at least 1,500, assuming you bought all the stickers yourself at a corner shop. Panini, the brand behind the 2014 Sticker Collection, hasn't come forward to claim the stunt as its own, but this is a great example of providing an (egotistical) influencer with the right assets to create their own engaging content which can help you win on Facebook. A branded image hit nearly every national newspaper, broadcast outlet and online channel, sparking conversations mainly around 'oh look Mario's at it again.' A masterpiece of how social media can fuel traditional PR. Just like Ronaldinho in 2002; if you meant it, well done Panini.

Relevant, delivered at a time when both audiences are highly engaged and easily sharable. Both campaigns are great examples of how brands can captivate and engage with an audience around a major sporting event by creating valuable content. With the ever-changing face of how we consume media and how our behaviour on social media is influenced by what we see on TV, we'll start to see more brands focus campaigns around major sporting events on social media as the new norm. Rather than traditional marketing campaigns, the social activity will be able speak to a new generation of consumers directly, whose only experience of World Cups/major sporting events will be via consuming content on social media channels.

Although this World Cup is the third tournament since Facebook was born in 2003 and second since Twitter's explosion in 2006, It's clear to see why Brazil 2014 is being heralded as the most social major sporting event ever. Just a shame England didn't give us too much to celebrate.

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