Counting down to kick-off

Digital technology has come a long way since the last World Cup, and this time round customers are keen to follow the action interactively using their phones – if the content providers are ready

MSN’s deal with 3 to carry branded user-generated content from the mobile operator’s SeeMeTV channel (MW last week) is just one of a raft of developments in mobile television. Operators are trialling mobile TV concepts and SeeMeTV, which launched late last year, is proving successful, with more than 4 million downloads since its launch.

This year’s World Cup will be the first tournament that fans can follow comprehensively on their mobile phones. As many matches are to be played during the day while most of us are at work, mobile updates – either SMS or MMS – are likely to be a must for many a die-hard footy fan, especially for consumers who do not have access to the internet at work.

There will be opportunities for tournament sponsors and mobile phone companies to run a variety of campaigns targeting the new generation of mobile phone users. The challenge facing the mobile industry is to ensure that operators can deliver on their promises. Consumers want goals and match highlights delivered to their phones, but are mobile marketers really ready for kick-off?

Ceon, a provider of service fulfilment software for broadband and IP-based services, commissioned NOP to examine consumer attitudes towards mobile digital services around the World Cup. The survey covered more than 1,000 mobile phone users and shows that, if the price is right, football fans are ready to embrace a whole range of mobile data services to follow the results and coverage of the matches. With the pre-tournament build-up now gathering pace, the race is on for operators to meet the needs of a new generation of 3G-literate fans, by assembling and rolling out the new services in time for the tournament.

The survey reveals that just over half of respondents (52%) in the premium target category of 15- to 34- year-olds, so sought after by advertisers, will be eagerly awaiting match updates via text messages to their mobile phones, while 31% say they are keen to receive video footage or clips of the matches.

It is widely accepted that traditional media such as TV, print and radio are losing out to the mobile phone and the internet as a means of keeping up to date with news and events. This in itself offers a whole raft of advertising and marketing opportunities for mobile phone vendors, operators and ISPs. According to the survey, this year 72% of all those aged 34 years and under plan to follow the action on TV. This compares to 87% in the same age group who followed the matches mainly on TV during the last World Cup.

The survey asked respondents which services, other than voicemail, they use on their mobile. Not surprisingly, text messaging is the most popular with 71% saying they use this service. The second most popular services are picture messages and ringtones (32%) followed by games and the internet (27%). These services lend themselves to match updates and goal coverage and will certainly score among 15- to 34-year-olds/ 31% say they would want footage of goals sent to their mobile. This is by no means an insignificant figure.

During the last World Cup just 8% of respondents received match updates via text, a figure that will shoot up massively this year, and 31% kept up with events on the Net.

This is the first World Cup where widely available mobile handsets will have the capability to deliver highlights to fans anytime, anywhere. These results show that the demand is there, but the challenge is for operators to deliver bundles of specialised and targeted services along with the more traditional mobile services, like voicemail and text.

This year’s World Cup tournament is a golden opportunity for operators to hook consumers on new mobile data services and market a range of bundled products and services that will appeal to football fans who want to keep up with the action any time, any place, anywhere.

As any marketer knows, however, timing is critical, and the ability to quickly and efficiently deliver the products and services is of prime importance. Event-based services present a particular challenge given their transitory nature and the need to assemble, price, provide, deliver and bill these services in a variety of customer-oriented modules.

Narelle Morrison, director, telecoms, Hotwire

This year will see many developments in mobile data services, but there is still testing to be done. Operators must determine what services consumers will adopt and what they are willing to pay for.

The NOP survey shows that consumers want mobile World Cup updates but only “at the right price”. The cost of mobile data services continues to be a stumbling block to uptake, alongside handset compatibility, however the industry is resolving these issues and consumers are experimenting more.

Just as text-based SMS exploded, mobile content and services that offer consumers instant gratification – sports event updates, TV, news and entertainment – will take off rapidly this year. The proliferation of community sites is also tempting consumers to be increasingly proactive in using their mobiles, for instance to take and share photos and video clips.

For marketers, there is a significant opportunity to take brands “mobile”. However, just as text-based e-mail marketing took several years to mature before interactive Net-based marketing appeared, we can expect SMS to remain king of mobile marketing before brands and their marketers fully embrace the cooler side of mobile data services.


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