Why Employees Watching the World Cup was a Good Thing

“Wait, what? How could my employees watching the World Cup instead of working be a good thing?”Well, to be fair, if you’re the boss, it probably wasn’t a good thing.

“Wait, what? How could my employees watching the World Cup instead of working be a good thing?”

Well, to be fair, if you’re the boss, it probably wasn’t a good thing. By some estimates, more than 156 million hours of productivity were lost in the US alone, which led to an estimated loss of $2.2 billion as people tuned in to one or more matches during the worldwide attention-magnet that was the World Cup.

So how is that a good thing, you ask? Because the athletes on the field weren’t the only ones getting noticed. With that many consumers enthralled by this global event, plenty of brands and platforms flocked to the digital realm in the hopes of getting in on the action (read “conversation”) as well.

Which Brands Won?

Those of us in “the biz” love keeping an eye out for what the big brands are going to pull off next. The most successful brands, however, knew they couldn’t just attach their names to the tournament and expect to get noticed; the true top performers had to actively set out to create and promote their own relevant content if they hoped to score.

Unsurprisingly, Nike and Adidas were both at the top of their game. Adidas’ social team was camped out in Rio, creating and sharing uber-timely images on the fly. They also planned out the entire tournament in advance, preemptively creating posts based on their predictions (the stars of the tournament scoring, the big teams winning, etc.).

While you don’t have to go that deep into the rabbit hole, it’s also important to note that Adidas’ campaign worked because it was based around how people consume content on Twitter. The content was concise enough to be read and shared out in between play stoppages. It didn’t matter if you were watching at work, at the bar, at home, or in person at the game: Adidas only needed a few seconds of your time.

On the other side of the pitch, Nike’s “Winner Stays” and “The Last Game” were the most-watched videos of the tournament. Nike’s use of animation was in stark contrast to the rest of the ads – both digital and traditional – that viewers saw during the World Cup. Adweek summed up Nike’s social efforts in this infographic:

Snickers followed Oreo’s Super Bowl blackout tweet with a timely tweet of their own. They focused on Luis Suarez’s instantly-infamous biting incident by telling Suarez to “just grab a Snickers” next time he was hungry. The tweet tripled Oreo’s Super Bowl post in retweets, at just under 48,000. Much like the Super Bowl blackout, lots of other brands jumped on the topic while it was hot.

Image Credit: Snickers

The fans (and these brands) weren’t the only ones making noise however…

How Platforms Got In On The Game Too

Twitter, Facebook, and Google all had special features during the World Cup that changed how users consumed information.

To kick off the tournament, Twitter introduced “hashflags,” which would insert an emoji flag next to a competing country’s three-letter hashtag. Their data team was quick to constantly provide users around the world with the freshest insights based on Twitter activity.

Tweet data was also used to create animated heat maps of tweets during matches.

All of Twitter’s uses of data are very valuable and provide a different perspective on everything that happened inside the field. They also prove that hashflags were a very smart and effective way to make users provide data that’s easy to “listen” in exchange for a nice, colorful flag decorating each post.

Google’s team aimed to be the one-stop information center for all things World Cup, going so far as to include Streetview images inside Brazil’s new stadiums. They created data visualizations using their search trend data to create sharable statistics. The visualizations weren’t just based on game stats, but on all of the culture surrounding the tournament. Argentina searched for the “Lord’s Prayer” 66x more than they searched for the World Cup song during the final? Google is on it.

Google’s data went deep enough to include sentiment tracking in searches during matches, complete with real-time percentages of positive, negative, or neutral searches for each country and approximations of the general emotion.

Facebook’s “Trending World Cup” feed was dedicated to World Cup news, photos, and trending topics. Like Twitter, they created a map to visualize data: Facebook utilized their page likes to show where fans of many of the stars of the tournament were located.

Just like tagging a friend in a status update, Facebook allowed you tag the games you were watching. The attached link would lead to a focused news feed for the game.

Since FIFA “owns” the game, they had to be on the crest of the wave, especially after the witty attack originated by John Oliver and his HBO team on “Last Week Tonight.” The video, that addressed much of the dark side of the organization football fans are aware of and explained it to a broader, less informed audience, was seen more than 7 million times on Youtube.

FIFA’s mobile app delivered the basics: news, photo galleries, schedule, lineups, information about the teams and a livestream of each game including every detail and live visualizations of different aspects of the game (possession, attacks, shots) in a section sponsored by Castrol, social conversation maps (sponsored by Adidas) and The Man of The Match (sponsored by Budweiser).

If you’re more of a stats nerd, you should definitely check the science behind the predictions offered by FiveThirtyEight, a polling aggregation website and blog, conducted by statistician Nate Silver and now owned by ESPN.

If your social plan doesn’t fit in the boundaries of the platforms you’re working in, you’ll be spending more effort for less gain. Don’t try to force the platforms to fit you. Instead, change your strategy to fit the platform. As Bruce Lee said, “be water, my friend.

Game Over?

Not a chance. Just because the World Cup is done and gone, our work as marketers is never finished. Our goal (see what I did there) is to learn from these past winners and take advantage of future global marketing events (read “opportunities”). Are you ready for this year’s Super Bowl? What about the Oscars? Don’t wait until it’s too late, now’s the time to get off the bench and get your head in the game.

Like Stats? Here’s A Few More

The final drew over 618,000 tweets per minute, a Twitter record (for context, the 2014 Super Bowl peaked at 381,000 tweets per minute). Before that, Germany’s 7-1 victory over Brazil held the record at 580,000. In total, the tournament drew 672 million tweets.

The unofficial villain of the World Cup, Luis Suarez, was the third-most tweeted about player of the tournament after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. Above him were Brazil’s poster boy, Neymar Jr., and Lionel Messi, the star of Argentina.