Russia 2018


What: Thuuz Sports created an excitement metric for 2018 FIFA World Cup games and teams, with Croatia vs. Russia ranking as the top match and Spain as the No. 1 side.
Why it matters: Measuring excitement can help marketers identify sports, teams and players who elicit strong passions in fans and can therefore be strong partners for their brands.

At the heart of sports is excitement: it’s the sometimes hard-to-measure element that can determine the extent and passion of fandom for a sport, league, team, even individual players. What makes for excitement for one fan—the steady, otherworldly superstardom of a Mike Trout (@MikeTroutvs. the flashiness of a Francisco Lindor (@Lindor12BC), or the bombs-away approach of the three-happy Golden State Warriors (@warriorsvs. the one-man show that LeBron James (@KingJamesbrings from Cleveland to Los Angeles—may be quite something else for another, equally engaged follower.

Brands want to tap into that excitement, in whichever way it’s defined by different fandoms. With that in mind, Thuuz Sports (@Thuuzdeveloped an algorithm to quantify some of those seemingly intangible parts to determine the most exciting matches and teams in the 2018 World Cup. Like with baseball’s defensive metrics, and with a similar project with NFL games last year, some subjectivity may come into play, and the results may look spot-on to some fans and a stretch to others.

This type of technology can show where brands want to spend in an instant and can show more ROI as to how their dollars are maximized.
Brazil supporters at World Cup (credit: Brateevsky)

The No. 1 match, per the ratings, was the Croatia vs. Russia quarterfinal on July 7, with some of the sport’s most enticing elements like a standout first goal, tying goal on a fast break, outstanding saves and not one but two extra-time tallies. Fans argue whether a shoot out is a fair way to determine a winner, but few can deny the sheer thrill of the importance of each touch. The eventual finalists’ win over the host country—the electric atmosphere in Sochi may have pushed it over the top—edged out Belgium’s thrilling 3-2 win over Japan on July 2 for the top rating.

“This was one of the most exciting World Cup’s in history, and we were pleased to work with IBM and FOX Sports throughout the event to measure excitement and create customizable highlights in real time for millions of fans,” said Thuuz CEO Warren Packard in a statement. “While every fan will have his or her most memorable moment, measuring metadata in this way gives us a great snapshot into the collective excitement felt around the globe as we look back on such a great global phenomenon. When people say ‘the excitement was palpable,’ we can now verify it!”

And while Belgium also scored the third most exciting game, its win over Neymar‘s fabulous Brazilian squad on July 6, it was Spain that posted the highest score, 93.5 out of a possible 100, with Croatia (91) and the Belgians (91) outpacing Germany (90) and Portugal (89.75) in the top five.

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Messi penalty kick (credit: Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro)

What do metrics like this mean? While the numbers purport to conclude exact figures (is there really that much of a difference between a score of 91 and 89.75 on a scale that doesn’t have a real reference point?), it may be more the confirmation that marketers can gain from the rating, or potentially help them identify outliers in various sports and teams within those sports that would be ideal partners.

“Excitement measurement has always been something that brands want to quantify, and this shows on a grand scale it can be measured,” said Chris Lencheski, veteran sports marketing expert and professor at Columbia University. “This type of technology can show where brands want to spend in an instant and can show more ROI as to how their dollars are maximized. It also speaks well to the Spanish speaking audience given where Spain ranked, and is great news for soccer going forward.”

Many of the Latin American teams play what is often described as an exciting brand of soccer, and Thuuz’s metrics beat that out. Also ranking among the top 15 from the 2018 World Cup are Colombia, Uruguay and even disappointing Argentina, and while that may be little consolation to the soccer-mad fandoms of those three nations who came up short in their championship quests, they did at least provide their supporters thrilling runs, and maybe pulled in a few more fans along the way.

Featured Image: Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro)

What: With the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) exit from World Cup play, sports marketers could face some adjustments to their marketing strategies.
Why it matters: The World Cup is the most relevant sports tournament globally, so brands look to take advantage of the platform for both its local and international impact.

A week ago, the USMNT was defeated by Trinidad and Tobago in the qualifiers leading up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. The team’s 2-1 defeat, combined with Panama and Honduras winning their qualifying rounds, means the U.S. soccer team will be sidelined for the rest of the season.

Jaime Cardenas, CEO of AC&M Group.

This is the first time since 1986 that the United States will not be present at a World Cup, making it a somewhat unexpected situation for marketers. “No one thought that this could happen,” says Jaime Cardenas, CEO of AC&M Group.

Some brands may now find themselves needing to adjust their U.S. campaigns to this unique situation. However, sports marketing experts tell us that these changes would actually be minimal.

The loss of the USMNT won’t negatively impact any pre-existing activation plans around World Cup ’18.

“The loss of the USMNT won’t negatively impact any pre-existing activation plans around World Cup ’18.  Brands have invested heavily in aligning with a global property and although the USMNT will be surprisingly absent, the World Cup will still draw the largest sports ratings of the summer,” says Michael Neuman, EVP, Managing Partner at Scout.

Dan Donnelly, EVP, Managing Director at Publicis Media Sports, agrees. “Marketers will have to talk about soccer in a general way without focusing on the U.S. national team.” In addition, Donnelly explains that the USMNT has never really been a very strong contender in the tournament. Had the team made it to World Cup play in Russia, it would have been a surprise if it played more than three matches, he says.

“The U.S. national team in not a world powerhouse anyway”, he adds.

The U.S. national team in not a world powerhouse anyway.
Michael Neuman, EVP, Managing Partner, Scout Sports and Entertainment

Benefits of a multicultural audience

“The absence of the USMNT will eliminate any chance of converting fringe or casual fans into frequent viewers next summer. But the most passionate fans will still turn out to engage with the World Cup as many of the best players in the world will be representing their countries,” explains Neuman.

The absence of the USMNT will eliminate any chance of converting fringe or casual fans into frequent viewers next summer.

According to Cardenas, brands will bet on supporting the biggest soccer stars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be playing at the Cup. Therefore, the loss of the U.S. team simply means that marketers will be shifting their focus to the game itself, rather than on the national team.

For lovers of the game, there will still be enough attractive matches to keep them watching next summer.

A loss for broadcasters

Dan Donnelly, EVP, Managing Director at Publicis Media Sports.

Fox and Telemundo signed a $1.2 billion deal to secure broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Fox will televise the matches in English, while Telemundo will broadcast them in Spanish.

According to Donnelly, the loser here will be Fox, as its audience has closer ties to the national team, whereas Telemundo will have the support of the Hispanic community, especially Mexicans, whose national team will be playing in the World Cup.

In addition, broadcasters will lose ratings from those viewers who are not soccer fans, but are willing to watch a game if their own country is playing, says Cardenas.

For now, those taking the biggest loss will be the benched players themselves, who will not get the exposure that could make their careers take off.

“Having the USMNT miss next summer’s World Cup eliminates many early marketing opportunities for Christian Pulisic, the dynamic young American teenager currently playing in Germany.  He’ll lose five years of his career before he can expose his name and skills in front of a global audience.  It’s difficult to elevate your status as a player influencer when you’re not seen on the biggest stage of your sport,” concludes Neuman.

What: The agreement will be in effect for the next two World Cups.
Why it matters: The Chinese company will be supplying the official phone of the top competitions organized by FIFA, including the Confederations Cup, and in return the Vivo logo will appear on billboards, in official communications and other promotional platforms.

Smartphone manufacturer Vivo became FIFA´s official sponsor until 2022, thanks to a six-year contract that includes the 2018 and 2022 editions of the World Cup and the Confederations Cup.

The official announcement was made at the historical and iconic Imperial Ancestral Temple of Beijing, in the presence of Vivo Executive Vice-president Ni Xudong and FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura.

Vivo´s track record as sports sponsor includes India´s Cricket Premier League title and a strategic partnership with the NBA to become the official Chinese supplier of cell phones for the NBA.

Vivo will be supplying FIFA´s official cell phone for the 2018 and 2022 editions of the World Cup, as well as FIFA Confederations Cup. In return, the company´s logo will appear on billboards and all match tickets, as well as in press releases and other key promotional platforms.

Vivo, which is also the official cell phone of the NBA in China, will be in the same tier as Hisense, McDonald’s and Bud. The top tier includes Wanda Group, which became the first FIFA´s global Chinese partner, along with Adidas, Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyundai-Kia, Visa and Qatar Airways, which signed up this very same month with its sights on the World Cup in Qatar.

The agreement includes marketing activities, such as the right to select spectators to participate as photographers during pre-match player warm-ups. Also, Vivo is planning to introduce a phone expressly designed for the FIFA World Cup, which will be offering unforgettable moments to fans around the world.

“Soccer is a sport that raises great passions and yields magical moments that make millions of people happy. In its essence, it is a sport that never stops making progress,” said Ni Xudong.

“As a global sponsor of the FIFA World Cup, Vivo wishes to associate its brand with the spirit of soccer, in order to convey an image of creativity, joy and international projection to consumers worldwide. Vivo will bring customized, youthful and energetic elements to the FIFA World Cup and the game of soccer”.

Technology and soccer strengthen their ties day by day, on and off the pitch. This is the ideal moment to start a partnership of this nature with the leading global brand in the smartphone business. We will be working in close cooperation and are keen to see Vivo´s involvement in the next editions of the World Cup and the Confederation Cup,” said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura.

What: Telemundo launches its marketing campaign for the FIFA Confederations Cup.
Why it matters: Because both the video and the message have been targeted to Hispanic fans in the United States, while keeping in mind soccer’s immense bicultural audience. In addition, Telemundo is also gearing up for the great world sporting event known as the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

Telemundo Deportes has launched its first marketing campaign for the Confederations Cup Russia 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, produced in association with Anomaly.

“Sólo el comienzo” (This is Only the Beginning), debuted on NBC Universal and Telemundo Enterprises platforms, as both Telemundo and Universo gear up for their exclusive Spanish-language coverage of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, June 17-July 2.

The first spot addresses the moments of anticipation experienced before a big game, while building on the message that the network’s coverage of the Confederations Cup is just the beginning; it is a message that also tells viewers that something big is coming and will be found only on Telemundo.

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The goal of the campaign is to reach Latino soccer fans, while at the same time appealing to a broader audience, and maintaining the passion and culture that soccer universally gives its fans.

It also incorporates those moments of anticipation with the lyrics of rock band Metallica’s classic song, “Nothing else Matters”, interpreted by the Scala & Kolacny Brothers’ chorus. The lyrics, tone, and cadence add to the drama and tension as the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia approaches.

“The U.S. Hispanic audience is young and more assimilated to the country’s culture, but feels equally American and Latino. However, their passion for soccer remains pure, and represents a way to honor where they come from and where they are going,” said Bill Bergofin, Senior Vice-President of Brand and Content Development for Telemundo Deportes.

Our goal is to communicate that Telemundo is also evolving, and we are committed to offering the most exciting and authentic coverage of the Confederations Cup and World Cup that has ever been seen in the United States.

“We are incredibly proud of this work. It is further proof of Anomaly’s commitment to redefining Hispanic marketing. Our goal is to revolutionize the industry. This is a big step forward that we take with a partner who shares similar values,” said Giovanni Villamar, Managing Director at Anomaly.

The campaign consists of a 60-second TV spot, two 30-second spots, plus 15-second commercials.

The spots began broadcasting on Sunday, May 21, during Telemundo Deportes’ broadcast of Premier League “Championship Sunday”, and aired on the entire NBC Universal network family, including NBC, Telemundo, Universo, CNBC, E!, ESQTV, MSNBC, NBCSN, OSYGN, SYFY, and USA.

After this initial release, the spots will continue to appear on TV, digital and social channels over the next eight weeks, on NBC Universal and other off-channel platforms.

Images: Telemundo Deportes and FIFA.com .

What: Univision Communications Inc. (UCI) unveiled its 2017-2018 programming line-up. Tapping into Hispanic’s passion for soccer is a key strategy for the largest Hispanic media company.
Why it matters: While Univision has lost some of its edge in the ratings vs. its rival Telemundo, the network presented itself at the upfronts in NYC touting key passion points of its audience. Hispanics passion for soccer plays a key role.

To date, Univision estimates its full portfolio reaches on average 108 million unduplicated media consumers each month – a 34% year-over-year improvement. As a strategy to create unique opportunities for marketers to deliver results leveraging viewers’ passion, the Company has decided to highlight the five passion points driving audience engagement: Soccer, News, Family, Music, and Drama.

“From more catered programming to improved access to content, we have enhanced our diverse portfolio to meet the needs of not only the next generation of American youth but also our valued clients. Our strategy continues to center around connecting and engaging with the audiences of the future and maintaining our unwavering commitment to authenticity and excellence,” said Randy Falco, President and Chief Executive Officer of Univision Communications.

We have enhanced our diverse portfolio to meet the needs of not only the next generation of American youth but also our valued clients.

According to the broadcaster, Univision Deportes has solidified its role as the home of soccer and strengthened Univision Deportes Network’s (UDN) position as the No. 1 Spanish-language sports network in the U.S. This has allowed Univision to deliver three times more soccer viewing opportunities than any other broadcaster.

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In 2016 alone, UDN primetime viewership grew by 33% among adults 18-49. In addition, five out of the top six most-watched live sporting events among Hispanics – in any language – were soccer matches broadcast on UDN.

In 2016 alone, UDN primetime viewership grew by 33% among adults 18-49.

This year, UDN will continue to deliver more soccer coverage than ever before, expanding on the Company’s position in the space and showcasing the importance of the sport in Hispanic culture. Starting in the summer of 2018, Univision Deportes will begin airing the UEFA Champions League. The matches will air exclusively in Spanish across UCI’s linear and digital platforms. Also, in the summer and fall of 2018, Univision Deportes will bring fans the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Nations League, respectively, across its platforms.

As part of its new programming, Univision Deportes will bring extensive coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Complementing the live action on the field, the channel will air a primetime talk show, live multiplatform shows, a second-screen viewing option, and more. It will also provide a slate of pre- and post-game expert analyses and complimentary programming across all Univision platforms.

With many matches airing from Russia at off-peak viewing hours, Univision Deportes will air an unique primetime show that will not only recap that day’s action but will merge the best of sports and entertainment.

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