Soccer, in the United States, is blowing my mind.
Last August I went to see the Seattle Sounders play the Portland Timbers. It’s one of the biggest rivalry matches in Major League Soccer and it sold out Century Link Field—that’s 67,000+ seats.
67,000+ Americans paid to watch a soccer game. That’s a BIG DEAL.
Over the last year 21 U.S. TV networks (including ESPN, Fox, NBC and Univision) aired close to 4,000 soccer telecasts. That’s almost 1,500 more than in 2010, the year of the last World Cup.
With MLS rapidly expanding from 19 to potentially 24 teams by 2017, it’s safe to say that soccer and soccer fandom are growing in America. And they’re growing fast. So what does that mean for advertisers and their brands?
Thanks to Disney and Univision, all 64 World Cup Matches were broadcast live from Brazil. And with major sponsors (Kia, Hyundai, Adidas, Coca-Cola, VISA), every halftime was chock-full of big game quality spots. But with two continuous 45-minute halves in soccer, advertisers must use a different approach to get noticed. As a result, every element of the game has become branded, even the ball.
From the press box to the sideline, every inch was covered with brand placement. Not to mention in-game ads. As consumers, all we needed to do was look at our screen.
In American professional sports—like football, basketball and baseball—we don’t see ads during game play. The only time brands appear is during timeouts or crowd-shots as the camera pans wide, but when the ball is in play, the cameras, and our eyes, focus on the players.
It’s different with soccer. As the ball moves up and down the field it rolls by ads for cell phones and beer. When a goalie takes a drop kick we see every banner and every leaderboard in the nosebleeds. And with such noticeable placement, advertisers get an opportunity to forge more meaningful connections with fans.
Any important game is an emotional rollercoaster. And with every gasp and every cheer, sponsors are right there—even if it’s just something to look at when you can’t stand to watch the action. When you can get in front of your audience as they’re experiencing intense highs and lows, it’s a great opportunity to build brand awareness.
Even after the final whistle, there are still great opportunities for brands to take advantage of like Nike did in this post-cup spot.
And based on the record-breaking success of the 2014 World Cup, it’s looking like advertisers will have many more chances in the near future.