5 Takeaways From the World Cup for Global Search Marketers

football-sketchIf you’re reading this, then it’s highly unlikely that you avoided hearing about the recently completed World Cup. Even if you aren’t a soccer fan (“football” to the rest of the world), you were most likely exposed somehow to the event through digital and traditional ads.

It’s been reported that advertisers spent as much (if not more) on World Cup advertising than they did on Super Bowl ads. Social spending, for example, on World Cup-related campaigns rose to the half-million to multimillion dollar range, according to SocialCode, a digital marketing firm that specializes in helping large advertisers put together social media campaigns.

It was crazy and intense, and for those in the search world, there were many missed opportunities. Here are a few takeaways for global advertisers to remember for the future.

1. Plan Ahead With Your Strategy

Before the World Cup, Adidas geared up and started planning and it paid off well, with a sales up more than 45 percent from last year in some markets. Ernesto Bruce, Adidas America’s director of soccer, noted on Forbes.com that the 2014 World Cup would be the “largest marketing campaign in the history of Adidas soccer.”

Apart from sports apparel, which is the obvious winner in World Cup advertising, everyone from car manufacturers to airlines who planned ahead, gained more traction then ever.

Planning ahead of global events is critical if you want to capitalize on multi-national projects.

  • Are your target audiences reflected on your site?
  • Do you have proper localized pages or microsites created?
  • Are you going to use multi-lingual Twitter handles and are they registered and managed by the right people?
  • Do you have display creative in place considering that your target countries may have an influx of different languages and cultures?
  • What did your competitors do during the last major event?

Creating a thorough plan at least six months in advance will be key.

2. Defend Yourself

The biggest impression I was left with from the World Cup, and that was probably shared with me around the globe, was the U.S. goalie Tim Howard’s ability to defend the ball as much as he did versus the Belgians. With 16 saves, he made World Cup history. One Twitter user tweeted, “Difference between Tim Howard and Jesus – Jesus had 11 guys he could trust.”

You are likely not only competing with fellow multinational marketers, you are also competing with the locals.

Multinationals are going to likely have the same issues you’re facing, but the locals are out for blood. Not only is it their home turf, but we all know that Google will favor a local over a multinational (paid search is probably the only exception to that theory).

Defend yourself by being local. Have a local domain and have local hosting if you can, have your site in the local language, have a local social media contributor; the more local you be, the more that locals will accept you even when the event is over.

3. Don’t Confuse Your Audience

Getting someone all excited about going to your site locally only for them to find that they can’t read it makes them sad and frustrated. As much as we all secretly enjoy watching the sad faces of losing teams, making your visitors sad costs you money and defeats what all this preplanning is all about.

You’re certainly local now if you followed number two, but you still need to capitalize on the audience that isn’t. The worst thing you can do is to make your geo-location tool on your site written in the local language or even worse, you hide it so your international audiences can’t figure out how to go to their language versions of your site.

Using country flags, or utilizing an easy-to-navigate map page will help your users. Or, you could use a language selector that is written in the local language (for example, if your site is in Portuguese, don’t name the “English” selector “Inglês”).

4. Capitalize on Social

From the final 16 games to the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina, there was a total of 180 million tweets and 280 million posts on Facebook. Take advantage of the opportunity to be involved and active on social media, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or whatever you prefer.

The Adidas @brazuca Twitter handle grew more than 600 percent during the course of the games, ending with nearly 3 million global followers and about 1 million Google+ users. Imagine if your company were to get 4 million to 5 million new brand advocates over a short period of time?

5. Count Your Winnings

My all-time favorite tweet, as with many other marketers, was the one from Lufthansa, which showed a drawing of the World Cup trophy stating, “The best extra weight we’ve ever carried.”

It doesn’t matter what team, country, or company you represent. As long as you’re measuring your campaigns, testing, and capitalizing on what is working and eliminating what is not, you are winning.

Identify your goals ahead of time by making clear objectives for driving traffic to your site, gaining brand exposure and interactivity through social, and determining who is going to stick around and become your customers when the event is all over.

Rocky Aoki, a famous Japanese Olympic wrestler and founder of Benihana restaurants, said, “You only win if you aren’t afraid to lose.” Just try and fine-tune your approach and you’ll be successful no matter what market you’re trying to reach.

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