Magazine article Marketing

WORLD CUP 2002: Digital Media - Let the Games Begin. Which Will Emerge as the Client Marketers' Champion at the World Cup - Digital Media or Text? David Butcher Judges Their Merits

Magazine article Marketing

WORLD CUP 2002: Digital Media - Let the Games Begin. Which Will Emerge as the Client Marketers' Champion at the World Cup - Digital Media or Text? David Butcher Judges Their Merits

Article excerpt

For the World Cup, official sponsors such as Nike and Sony will be keen to make the most of their investment by running smart online campaigns.

Wait: something's wrong with that sentence. Neither Nike nor Sony are official FIFA sponsors. Of course, as a marketing professional, you already knew that, but millions don't. In a Netpoll survey, 21% of respondents said Nike was an official sponsor and 17% identified Sony. That's more than identified brands such as Gillette and Philips, which have paid through the nose to be official sponsors.

Nike scores well in this kind of poll because its clever cross-media campaigns make it closely associated with football in consumers' minds.

Right now, its 'Secret Tournament' TV campaign, fronted by Eric Cantona, is driving traffic to the nikefootball.com site, where some fancy games, clips and competitions are woven around a cast of world-class players.

Nike has always been adventurous online. The question is how many other big brands are building the web into their media plans around the World Cup. To date, marketing support for football sites has been sketchy: a lot of online advertising is fairly parochial and unglamorous: betting shops, football clothing, books and videos.

But the audience reach keeps growing and is far bigger than many people realise. No one knows how many eyeballs they'll reach, but Yahoo! got more than 18 million page views during France '98, and for this year, across the FIFA site and its own global fan sites, it is 'conservatively' predicting 4.5 billion. And if page views seem like funny money to you, here's a more compelling figure: sports.com already has 6.8 million monthly unique users. What something as big as the World Cup will do to that figure is anyone's guess.

The fact that fixtures will be played at awkward times for European TV and newspapers - between early morning and early afternoon - has prompted optimists in digital media to christen the tournament the 'Web World Cup'.

They're hoping the net and SMS can clean up at a time when traditional media are wrong-footed.

That may be wishful thinking. Look closely at the fixture timings for England and Ireland's group games and you'll see that a lot of people will still be able to watch them on TV at home (if they're at 7.30am or at weekends) or at the pub (12.30 on a Friday afternoon - a no-brainer for a long lunch, surely.)

But even so, there will be many who can't, and a lot of brands are keen to exploit that fact by stamping their logos on desktop programs designed to keep office workers in touch with developments in Japan and Korea.

An ad on a web site is all very well, but users don't always want a hard sell. It's far better to have a constant presence in their field of vision like a news ticker. Take the Philips MatchCast, for instance, which will be available on the official FIFA World Cup site (www.fifaworldcup.com).

It's a little graphic display that sits on the user's PC desktop and shows real-time data like the score, play-by-play text commentary, match stats, links to player biogs, even the match weather conditions. Like everything else at FIFA's official site, it was put together by Yahoo!, whose sales force have been busy finding corporate partners for all the neat features it has developed.

'They're a chance for advertisers to get really close to audiences,' says Yahoo! UK and Ireland's commercial director Lee Thompson. 'If you look at the applications we've developed like news tickers, games, messengers, quizzes, they're all interactive and involve the viewer. It creates a lot of goodwill for advertisers because if you're offering someone timely information that they can't get elsewhere, they're going to feel good about it.'

Of course, they can get it elsewhere. They can get it from one of the many other live desktop feeds for a start. European sports giant sports. …

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