You’d better have Beckham if you want people to buy. That is one of the findings from Instart and its 2018 World Cup Ad Performance Study. The web-experience company surveyed more than 1,000 adults living in the U.S. and United Kingdom to draw comparisons on how fans in each country feel about the World Cup, how they’re watching it, and how World Cup advertising is impacting their behavior. Good data on ad spend efficiency is scarce and this is the rare, data-rich set worth illuminating.
As to how they’re watching the 2018 World Cup, live TV is the preferred way, with more than two-thirds (70 percent) of Americans and Brits watching live. The Brits watch more live matches (81 percent) than Americans (60 percent), and when fans can’t be at home to watch, they’re streaming them at work. Around 20 percent of Americans and 25 percent of British fans admit to streaming matches online at work, and more than half (54 percent) of the people who are watching at work admit that they are “sneaking” it. The British have the Americans beat when it comes to time spent streaming matches at work: more than 50 percent of British fans will be watching at least 1 to 2 hours of matches at work, and 27 percent will watch 3 to 4 hours of matches. And, amazingly, some 14 percent will watch at least 5 to 6 hours of matches at work!
While some might argue that this potential loss of productivity is bad for business, the vast majority of corporate advertisers are banking on the World Cup’s consistent popularity to burnish their brands in front of literally billions of people. Moreover, advertisers shouldn’t oversimplify their view of the sport as the advertising opportunity, but instead drill down to granular players — by name, like Beckham — as an opportunity to hook purchasers.
Ads Make Americans More Likely to Buy
The Instart study also shows that Americans are more likely to be impacted by commercials than the British, with nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans saying that World Cup commercials are affecting their purchasing behavior, versus 52 percent of those living in the UK. More than 1 in 4 Americans (28 percent) said that World Cup ads will make them visit a brand’s website, while 23 percent say World Cup ads lead them to buy fast food, and 16 percent say the ads have made them drink beer. In addition, 37 percent of Americans are watching at least 60 seconds of an ad when it appears on TV or online, compared to 32 percent of Brits.
Beckham Brings the Buyers
Celebrity- and athlete-driven campaigns figure prominently in the World Cup advertising mix. Instart’s data shows that ads featuring Mr. Posh Spice have an even greater shot at driving consumer purchase behavior, and these ads have built-in cross-promotional, PR and social media amplification, given the star power they bring. Beckham is the international soccer star most likely to convince soccer fans to buy a product (29 percent), leading Cristiano Ronaldo (19 percent) and Lionel Messi (14 percent), which isn’t bad for a retired guy.
In addition to seeing celebrities, viewers want to be entertained by the ads they’re watching. When it comes to top characteristics of World Cup ads that will grab a viewer’s attention, creativity led at 25 percent, while repetition (60 percent) and sex appeal (23 percent) were also key factors for an ad’s pull. However, online advertisers should take heed: approximately 18 percent of Americans say it only takes seeing one ad online to make them tune out, and 25 percent say it takes two online ads to make them cease paying attention. For those living in the UK, 31 percent say they begin to tune out after only one online ad, and 21 percent say their tune-out number is two ads.
Soccer Fans Better Lovers? And Do They Scream “GOOOOAAL!” in Bed?
Yes, you read that right. Instart even asked some racy, sweaty questions for this one.
The study reveals that approximately 81 percent of Americans say that soccer fans are better in bed than basketball or football fans because they are more passionate about their favorite sport (42 percent), they are more athletic (20 percent), they are more European (17 percent), and that they are sexier (12 percent). Instart’s new data also uncovered that World Cup fever also finds its way into the bedroom, as more than half of Americans say they expect someone in their household to shout “GOOOOAAL!” in bed.
All About ‘Flopping’
The practice of “flopping,” faking injury to get a penalty card against one’s opponent, is one of the more entertaining aspects of soccer. Cristiano Ronaldo of Spain is one of the acknowledged masters of the craft, and Ronaldo and his fellow floppers are taken seriously by the football-mad Brits. Around 39 percent of those in the UK say that violators should get red-carded versus 29 percent in the U.S., and Americans (12 percent) are more likely to say it adds to a show’s entertainment value than are the British (7 percent).
Waiting for 2026 – With or Without a Winning U.S. Team
Despite the fact that the U.S. national team is not in the 2018 World Cup and that heavily favored teams like Germany have been eliminated, World Cup interest and viewership remain strong. And with the announcement of the 2026 World Cup being hosted in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., more attention will be focused on the sport and its stars here in the States. However, despite these external trends, Instart’s study also revealed that Americans don’t have high hopes for a U.S. win or competitive team, with nearly half of Americans (43 percent) saying it’s unlikely that the U.S. will win the World Cup in the next decade. Almost 1 in 4 say it’s unlikely that the U.S. will even qualify in the next decade, but that hasn’t stopped us Americans from watching.
The Bigger Picture: A Worthy Global Branding Platform
The beauty of the World Cup is that it provides an opportunity to set aside political differences and economic concerns to focus on the simple joys of a well-played game. Seeing top professionals take time away from their busy careers to participate in a contest that emphasizes national pride, culture and international togetherness provides a refreshing break from the news and represents the ideal of sports.
And while it is true that big advertisers flock to the World Cup for its huge audiences, its popularity as a cultural showcase cannot be underestimated. Perhaps that is why consumers view the World Cup as a favorable venue for top U.S.-based brands – in both the UK and the U.S., consumers picked Amazon, Apple and Microsoft as the top three brands they would like to see sponsor the 2026 World Cup. In this light, marketers can view the World Cup as an appropriate venue to bring their best and brightest – in both culture and advertising – to the game.
Jordan French is the Executive Editor of Grit Daily. An award-winning journalist, he is on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur.
He is the founder of Notability Partners and the co-founder of BNB Shield, Lisbon Hill Farms, Status Labs, BeeHex, BlockTelegraph, and Grit Daily. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney, French is the author of upcoming book, The Gritty Entrepreneur.