I can’t proclaim to be an avid football fan, but after the excitement of Euro 2020, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in the Qatar World Cup later this year. Yes, the opening draw looks promising for England, and we are still awaiting the fate of the other home nations, however what’s equally exciting and sparking a lot of conversations with my clients right now, is the impact the World Cup is going to have on consumers, brands, and the media market.
You might assume that impact is obvious; free from our Covid shackles, consumers will be out in force at the pubs, sponsors will be spending big, some brands will outsmart the big spenders, and the media market will see an influx of revenue versus a non-tournament year.
While all of that is true, the timing of the tournament (21st November – 18th December 2022) has the potential to impact consumer and brand behaviour beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.
According to Wavemaker forecasts, an estimated £115m in additional advertising revenue is set to hit Q4 2022, driven primarily by World Cup sponsors and football activators. With TV and digital inflation already at an all time high, availability will be a huge challenge for brands looking to be active during the period. With an additional £70m of revenue expected in TV, an OOH market already 75% sold, and biddable channels across Nov and Dec typically experiencing an increase in CPMs of up to 18% versus the yearly average, the stakes have never been higher. What’s clear is that brands can’t just throw money at the challenge and expect to succeed, it will be those who plan ahead and flex their creativity who will win out
How, then, will consumers behave?
Pre pandemic, World Cup matches saw people hit the pubs in droves and if there was sunshine, the communal viewing areas in parks and city centres were packed. But can we expect the same in winter?
With low temperatures forcing people indoors, entertainment spaces will be under immense pressure as Christmas gatherings compete with world cup viewing experiences. Many will likely seek to blend the two.
There’s also another reality. The run up to Christmas typically sees a high volume of planned and formal in-home gatherings; families and friends coming together over food, usually accompanied by weeks of planning from the host. But the World Cup will also likely bring more spontaneous gatherings where the game is front and centre of the entertainment and food is the accompaniment, driving last-minute spontaneous shopping, and in turn more top up shops.
So, what will this mean for brands?
Without a doubt, marketeers need to navigate Q4 2022 with care and creativity—and that work needs to happen now, not later.
Building mental availability at Christmas is not a new challenge for brands, but the operating environment will be. On average, the Christmas period typically sees 35,000 advertisers active, add to the mix that a World Cup year sees a 15% increase in brands being active, and you’re looking at a whole different ball game.
Christmas retailers will be forced to actively reconsider what their effective window of opportunity is. Will we see an even earlier start to Christmas advertising as they try to navigate the World Cup noise, inflation, and a diminished ability to reach core audiences at points across the period? It seems likely.
Meanwhile, for tech and gaming brands focussed on Black Friday, the World Cup could be seen as a gift, with the first five days of the tournament delivering engaged audiences at scale.
Getting ready for the journey ahead
The challenges presented by Qatar 2022 are new and different but not insurmountable. Stakeholders need to be engaged sooner rather than later. So, for brands who want to get ahead of the game, here are 4 ways to win:
1. Think differently about how you offset the tournament’s impact
Spending more isn’t always a viable solution, so think differently about how you can offset the impact your brand faces. If TV is typically a core channel for your brand, what role could an increased share of AV into VOD, or sponsorship, play? Both aren’t impacted by inflation in the same way. Perhaps Q4 2022 could be the moment you supercharge the transformation of your existing comms models and look to make owned and earned work harder for you?
And don’t forget about the role partnerships can play too. ITV’s Adlabs is just one example of how they are working with brands to find new solutions to drive cut through over this period.
2. Identify the moments you want to own
Q4 is historically cluttered with retail and luxury brands. Throw World Cup activators into the mix and it will be even busier. Attempting to win both occasions is a fool’s errand.
Identify which is the bigger bet for your brand—formal or informal occasions; facilitator or entertainer; Christmas or Qatar—and from there, think creatively about the role your brand could play in these shared experiences.
3. Be clear on the reason why you’re being active.
Given the clutter and the cost of being active, some brands may have to face a difficult decision – should they be active at all? You may need to get comfortable with finding a new calendar opportunity elsewhere within the year.
Its also important brands take heed of the human rights controversy surrounding Qatar. If your brand has a strong purpose narrative, be careful any activations around the tournament don’t place you at odds with that message.
4. Embrace the opportunity to test and learn
Lastly, and most importantly, now is your chance to experiment with channels that can deliver the benefits of television without being subject to the same inflationary pressures. For brands with a clear story to tell, Cinema is likely to be substantially cheaper than TV and offers access to many different audiences through deeply immersive formats.
Brands face challenges all the time, and Q4 2022 is going to be no different, but challenges breed innovation and new thinking. So embrace the disruption, the matches, the social gatherings and lets hope this time round it really is coming home!
Sian Runnacles is client managing director at Wavemaker UK.