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How to kick-off your brand’s world cup marketing campaign

How to kick-off your brand’s World Cup marketing campaign

With less than two weeks to go until the start of the World Cup, there’s still just enough time to capitalise on football fever and create tournament inspired marketing and advertising campaigns that will spark interest with audiences across the globe. But with so much noise surrounding the quadrennial event, how can you ensure your brand’s efforts stand out from the crowd, for the right reasons?

As with any major event, the World Cup provides ample opportunities for brands to develop cleverly crafted campaigns that exploit the latest trends and resonate with audiences. However, it doesn’t come without challenges and marketers must think carefully about whether jumping on the World Cup bandwagon is right for them. With the majority of marketing privileges surrounding the World Cup reserved for official brand sponsors and strict guidelines outlined by FIFA surrounding the use of trademarks and terminology, everyone else is left tackling a difficult task when it comes to developing winning campaigns.

With this in mind, we share 6 tips that will help you to make the most out of your world cup marketing efforts, or perhaps decide to steer clear all together.

Select visuals that fit the theme

...but avoid all official imagery

Make the most of this footballing month by switching your usual visuals for football themed imagery. You can also capitalise on the global feel of the tournament by incorporating flags, country emblems or patriotic symbols into your campaign creatives. As the competition starts to take over the digital media space, audiences will become accustomed to seeing this type of imagery and in many cases, may even be looking out for it. It gives you plenty of opportunity to be creative with your digital advertising and marketing campaigns and to do something different from your traditional brand image.

When deciding on imagery, make sure you’re clued up on the FIFA World Cup guidelines. Whilst FIFA themselves encourage companies to celebrate and benefit from the World Cup, they also have strict rules regarding the use of official marks. With this in mind, make sure you keep all World Cup related imagery generic. This means not using any World Cup logos, graphics or official imagery, or anything that could be seen to show a commercial link between your brand and the event.

Speak the football lingo

...but be aware of what you can't say

This is your chance to get creative with words in both your copy and call to actions. As with choosing imagery, try and stick to generic football and country terms that will help to create an indirect link between your brand and the tournament and maximise your chances of grabbing the attention of football fans. This is also your chance to slightly stray from your usual tone of voice, perhaps with a football pun here and there, and could be an excellent way of reaching audiences who previously weren’t interested in your brand. Try not to take things too seriously – after all, the World Cup is all about fun.

Once again, you do need to make sure you refer to the FIFA guidelines, which contain strict rules about what you can and cannot say, with a list of official word marks that are only allowed to be used by FIFA right holders. If you’re unsure on whether you can say something, try and find an alternative to be on the safe side and avoid being penalised.

Choose your timing wisely

...don’t get drowned out at match-time

Think about when your audience is most likely to be interested in what you have to say. Although people may be searching online during matches, channels such as social media will be flooded with live-tweets about the games. This was seen in 2014 when 74.2% of viewers expected to be on social media whilst watching the games. Despite high traffic volumes, this might not be the right time and place for you to share your World Cup promotions, as activity will largely be around what is happening in the match.

Try to capture audiences when they are more engaged with what’s happening digitally, rather than what’s happening on the field. We recommend pushing messages in the lead up to, in between and after games and then testing what works best, whether that be via digital advertising, social media or email. Every brand and audience is different, so to truly understand what works for you, you need to be assessing different options and optimising accordingly. 

Focus on your most relevant products

...without neglecting everything else

Before the 2014 tournament, a survey of consumers found that a third said they would purchase merchandise, food or drink online during the World Cup. This represents a huge opportunity for your brand to boost online sales, if you approach it correctly. If your data is strong enough, look back to the previous tournament to identify trends in what your customers were searching for and purchasing. But don’t fret if the data isn’t there! Instead, spend some time thinking about who your customers are (use current analytics to help with this), which of your products they might be looking for at this time and then tailor their online experiences accordingly to ensure you are showing them relevant and personalised recommendations. If they have been searching for specific products already, use retargeting to remind them of your brand and encourage them to purchase. 

However, whilst there are multiple opportunities remember that life goes on outside the World Cup and therefore ensure you’re not neglecting your other products and non-football loving audiences. In fact, it could be a good time to target those who don’t have an interest in football and the World Cup. With so much attention and time being placed on the event, online shopping habits of non-fans may well increase as they look for entertainment, and therefore your brand could get ahead by focusing advertising efforts not on the tournament itself, but on what’s happening outside it.

Make everything mobile friendly

...or miss capturing fans on-the-go

Think about where your desired audience are likely to be spending their time and optimise specific channels accordingly. The chances are they are likely to be on the go around match time and regularly checking social media for updates, rather than at a desk, checking their emails, so social advertising could be an effective method. UK fans specifically were found in 2014 to be over 2.5 times more likely to search on mobile during matches than four years previously.

As a result, it’s critical that you are delivering a mobile experience that is intuitive, user-friendly and personalised to what you customers are looking for if you want to capitalise on this surge in mobile usage. This being said, your world cup campaign isn’t limited purely to match time, so whilst making things mobile friendly is essential, don’t forget the time in between where other channels and devices will still have an impact.

Be prepared to change your plans

...if you want to stay relevant

As with any live event, there’s huge scope for the unexpected and change is inevitable as the results come flooding in and tournament progresses. Perhaps your brand is dominant in a particular country and their team gets knocked out of the competition early on, or maybe an underdog gets through to the semi-final which influences audience behaviour. Whatever happens, you need to be prepared to act upon the changes, ensuring your marketing team is agile and can adjust campaigns, from creatives to targeting, in line with what is happening.

There is nothing worse than out of date and irrelevant marketing – it can do more harm than good and leave a negative impression with audiences. Before embarking on your World Cup inspired campaigns, make sure your brand is set up to respond to events in real-time. If not, make sure you are planning activity that is generic enough to endure any changes that take place.


We hope we’ve given you some ideas of how your brand can get creative and benefit from this World Cup. Whether you’re looking to run digital advertising, email marketing or onsite promotions, our main advice to you is to approach every opportunity with an awareness of what’s right for your brand, and what you might want to avoid.

At Ve, we use extensive data into audience groups and expert media trading insights to help brands reach new and existing audiences with creatives and content that enrich the online customer journey. Find out more about how we can help you to deliver programmatic digital advertising that works this World Cup.

Keep an eye out over the next few as we’ll be sharing some of the top digital trends we see during the tournament!

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Posted by Emily Atkinson

Emily is Content Marketing Manager at Ve Global.