What lessons did we learn from World Cup 2018 marketing strategies, and how can their influence be harnessed to deliver winning campaigns? TVSquared’s Marlene Grimm investigates.

World Cup season is officially over, with France the reining champions beating Croatia 4-2 in Sunday’s exciting final. With the games consistently attracting 20 million plus viewers, attention across the globe has been transfixed on the greatest celebration of the beautiful game. So it should come as no surprise that a whopping 75% of UK fans were expected to opt for my favoured option and watch this year’s tournament in front of the TV, from the comfort of their own sofa – as opposed to a meagre 1% via mobile.

But when making the most of TV’s huge reach during such a big event — the last World Cup attracted, in total, 3.2 billion viewers — marketers can’t overlook the 23% of audiences using mobile devices to seek additional information. This search behaviour brings multiple benefits to brands not just pre- and post-game, but also at half time. And enables brands to harness, and track, TV’s ability to drive online and offline results.

The question is: what makes TV and the World Cup the dream team, what lessons did we learn from World Cup 2018 marketing strategies, and how can their influence be harnessed to deliver winning campaigns?

Search to Score Your Marketing Goals

In the UK, the World Cup rights are split between the BBC and ITV. And, as always, the World Cup final was broadcast live across both. But while the assumption may be that maximising marketing impact means partnering with broadcast giants — in this case: ITV — sponsorship isn’t the only option. In fact, studies have shown just 1% of UK fans are more likely to buy from brands that sponsored the World Cup.

A more effective, affordable, and accessible method is implementing search. When done right, search marketing, is the perfect means of leveraging the modern appetite for multi-tasking, and the power of TV, by playing on second screening.

Second screening has changed the way viewers interact with both ads and TV content. In previous years, responses to World Cup TV ads were usually subject to sizeable delay: for instance, I might have seen an inspiring ad for special edition football boots and then taken action at the first opportunity, say browsing on a desktop computer hours later or buying offline the next week. Now, the rise of smartphones – used by over 36% of the world's population – means I can choose to engage faster. Seconds after, or even as an ad airs, I can continue the experience via another channel; be that researching and potentially purchasing those boots or interacting with the brand via social media.

From the marketer’s perspective, this link between TV and digital offers a valuable window of opportunity. By leveraging TV’s reach and influence to amplify campaigns and fuel digital response, essential search campaign goals such as acquisition, engagement and conversion rates can be met. In short: TV and search are better as team players.

Developing the Perfect Game Plan

So, we know that synchronising activity across channels is key, but how can brands hone their strategy to ensure optimal success? The answer is to keep these three best practices to keep in mind:

1) Identify Days and Dayparts

Timing was more crucial in 2018 than ever before. As the 2018 FIFA World Cup was held in Russia, considerations had to be made for the country’s 11 different time zones, which meant 40% of the world’s population were actually asleep when some of the matches were played. For the UK market, this meant some games were at differing times to standard kick-off slots. The way viewers approach consuming these matches – from time of day to medium watched – was likely to fluctuate throughout the tournament. This made it important for marketers to carefully align search activity for each audience; for instance, ads for discount pizza may not perform well if seen during matches early on a Monday morning, but were likely to achieve more resonance on a Friday night. There was also some controversy about the number of gambling ads shown to children during the UK’s broadcast of the World Cup final – not necessarily expected on a Sunday afternoon.

To fuel maximum response, however, it was also important to go beyond simply following match schedules and act on data. Brands needed to track viewer interactions and activity to establish which specific games — and moments within those games — inspired the greatest reaction, and then adjust delivery accordingly.

2) Compare Search vs. Regular Campaigns

Understanding the impact of your search campaign as it happens is vital to enhance engagement and conversions, which makes regular health checks essential. Brands need same-day insight into whether a their position is improving or if the click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates are increasing. From this data, brands can easily build a picture of the particular TV creatives that drove response and at what times the highest search rates are seen. Using this insight, campaigns can be optimised in-flight — bolstering results and avoiding ad spend wastage.

3) Set KPIs and Optimise

Ensuring your World Cup campaign goals are scored takes time and planning, by setting clear KPIs marketers could efficiently measure ROI and other performance metrics. Planning based on response not ratings enabled search teams to set short delivery windows to test, learn, and optimise. For example, Atkins Diet’s recent four week synchronised search and national TV campaign significantly increased engagement, with time spent on its site increasing by almost 50% – which hit the KPI of raising registration levels. Suzuki recently ran a synchronised search and national TV campaign for eight weeks, which resulted in a 30% uplift in conversions – in this instance, hitting store-locator request and brochure download KPIs.

In this age of active-participation viewers and increasingly sophisticated analytics reporting, visualisation, and prediction tools, marketers are thinking differently about TV as a performance-marketing channel. It’s clear that marketing in silos is now an old fashioned approach. For brands to truly make the most of their marketing strategies during sporting events, communication between online and offline teams is needed to make efficient and complementary media strategies happen.

I’m not a betting woman, but if I were, my money would’ve been on a TV and search strategy to win out for marketers and brands during the FIFA 2018 World Cup.