Interest in soccer is growing quickly in the United States, but worldwide, soccer (known elsewhere as “football”) dominates. According to World Atlas, it’s the most popular sport in the world with an estimated 4 billion fans. Soccer fans are known to be fiercely loyal to the clubs they support.
Why Brands Want to Work with FIFA
In 2018, the International Federation of Association Football, better known as FIFA, enjoyed more than $5 billion in revenue from the 21st World Cup with expenditures reaching $1.82 billion. FIFA’s money comes from broadcast, marketing, and licensing rights. Host nations for the World Cup take on the expense of developing the infrastructure, to FIFA’s benefit.
Clearly, brands are interested and invested in tapping into this world-wide popularity. FIFA partners with a lot of heavyweight brands, the most well-known in the U.S. being Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia, and Visa.
FIFA partners have locked down some key marketing activities surrounding the brand, including the use of FIFA’s “Official Marks”; stadium, publication, and website exposure; sponsorship opportunities; broadcast advertising; and so on. Considering that FIFA is a global entity, that’s a nice deal if you can get it.
Partnering with FIFA is expensive, despite the organization’s nonprofit status. For 30 years, American video game company Electronic Arts (EA), partnered with FIFA to publish the massively popular FIFA games, earning more than $20 billion in two decades. FIFA’s earnings on the game via licensing brought in roughly $150 million per year.
Brands want to work with FIFA for visibility, first and foremost. Marketing today is hyper-focused on “brand positioning” strategy. Soccer provides an inroad into several types of positioning, including celebrity, lifestyle, and emotional positioning. Soccer fans adore their players, often identify with them and their lifestyles, and are emotionally charged by soccer events. By tapping into these aspects of the soccer-fan connections, brands can create an awareness of their products to enhance recognition or even become the go-to brand in fans’ minds.
Again, a brand doesn’t have to be an elite partner in the soccer game. Nike has clearly found its path into soccer marketing, and the lesson here is that working with individual players and clubs is a key to finding success in this space.
How Can Brands Get in on the Action?
Just because a brand may not be able to afford to buy the big-bucks to directly advertise with and sponsor FIFA, or can’t advertise directly because of exclusivity with sponsors in the space,doesn’t mean it can’t take part on the event and capitalize on it through the players as influencers, on WatchParties, or through digital marketing. A platform like MILLIONS.co brings all three options together.
Work with Athlete Influencers
Soccer players are popular all over the world. Online lists of most popular athletes worldwide often feature either Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the top three positions (with American basketball’s LeBron James rounding out the trifecta—and here). Ronaldo appears to be the most famous athlete in the world these days, and as such, pulls in 458M followers on Instagram and 101M on Twitter. Messi’s total followers number 340M on Instagram and nearly 720,000K on Twitter.
The popularity of these athletes matters to brands, with Ronaldo bringing in roughly $50 million through endorsements (again, $20 million from Nike alone), and Messi earning $40 million by partnering with brands.
Apparently, that $20 million lifetime deal is working for Nike. But, what if a brand wants to partner with a soccer player to leverage the power of a soccer event and doesn’t have $20 million a year to spend on endorsements?
Brands outside of FIFA’s marketing domain may not be able to use FIFA’s “Official Marks” or spend millions to secure a deal with a star like Ronaldo, but they can work with individual clubs or players to market their products. The key for brands is to find a player creating engaging content that can connect with the brand’s intended market, aesthetics, values, and/or image. The player can integrate and reference brand products or services directly, link to brand social media accounts, incorporate the brand into images, or share brand hashtags before, during, or after a sporting event.
Brands have options for working with players that range from sponsoring an athlete to engaging with the athlete for limited campaigns. Although players can promote the brand at any time for any reason, events provide opportunities to tap into periods of peak interest in soccer to send out content in real time, commenting on the action while raising brand awareness.
The good news for brands is that 65% of “sports consumers follow sports personalities on social media,” according to a survey by Crowd React Media. Boston Group cites a Nielsen study indicating that 71% of consumers indicated they placed more trust in social media influencers than traditional advertising. Sponsoring sporting events takes second place in gaining trust.
Host WatchParties on MILLIONS.co
A brand seeking exposure during the World Cup or another other soccer event could partner with an athlete to sponsor a WatchParty on the MILLIONS platform. WatchParties have become popular online, and in this case, fans have the opportunity to watch soccer events with an athlete as host. The host schedules the WatchParty and then meets with fans online to watch the event together. The event itself is not live streamed on MILLIONS and stays off camera, butthe athlete stays on camera and provides commentary and brings insider knowledge fans crave to the event.
During a WatchParty, the sponsoring brand’s logo appears on screen, the product and services are integrated, and the hosting athlete helps to raise brand awareness in commentary through organic and authentic conversations, and through script reads. This means hours of direct audience engagement between host and fans.Fans can engage in Q&A with the hosts, as well, to enhance the interactive component of the event and actively participate.
MILLIONS creates branded promo posters and help with promotion of the event, too, along with producing shareable media assets such as short and long form videos, and social media commercials. MILLIONS will also run ads utilizing the athletes influence for the brand as part of the campaign.
Sure, fans could travel to the event, find suitable accommodations, navigate COVID-related requirements to watch it in person. Or, fans can stay home and watch matches on television in the comfort of their own homes, joining a WatchParty hosted by an athlete on MILLIONS.
Bringing it all Together
The best strategy for brands with a desire to capitalize on soccer is to use some combination of these approaches. Athlete influencers can use social media and MILLIONS to reach and bring in fans. Social media has nudged brands into a new frontier of advertising, one that values authenticity and trust.
For more information about how to begin, check out our website or click the link below.