Innovative launches- apps/mobile games
The biggest global fans of soccer/football are between the ages of 16 to 34, and include high numbers of both men and women. The regions with the biggest viewership are South America, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia, most specifically China. Top viewing channels include TV (traditional), ESPN and Skysports online sites, and social media sites Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
The demographic profile below includes specifics for both football (soccer) fans, as the identified primary target, and FIFA World Cup fans, as the identified secondary target. The secondary target includes information on both the FIFA Men’s World Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
FIFA WORLD CUP / FOOTBALL-SOCCER FAN DEMOGRAPHICS
- This includes a breakdown by age and gender, as well as by the regions with the biggest number of viewers, and the channels most used for viewing.
- In 2018, 40% of individuals age 16 and older living in major metropolitan areas around the world counted themselves as “interested or very interested in” following soccer/football.
- In 2018, 30% of FIFA fans were ages 25 to 34, 29% were ages 16 to 24, and 21% were ages 35 – 44. An additional 20% of fans were 45 years old or older.
- In the US, 55% of Americans aged 16 to 24 years enjoyed watching soccer/football, while 50% of those between 25 and 34 enjoyed it. Only about 14% of those aged 55 to 69 enjoyed watching the sport, making it the smallest demographic by-age (among adult viewers).
- Research from FIFA and Nielsen show that, “around the world, football is a sport that transcends gender.” In fact, the sport is almost as popular among female viewers as among male viewers. A full 70% of global women describe watching the FIFA Men’s World Cup as “very appealing,” with 58% stating they find watching the Women’s Cup “very appealing.”
- In the US, 38% of men and 26% of women consider themselves “interested or very interested” in watching soccer/football games.
- In the US, 41% of medium-income earners report watching the sport, and 40% of high-income earners enjoy watching it, while only 24% of low-income earners report enjoying it.
Regions w/ Highest Number of Viewers
- FIFA notes that South America and Europe are “the traditional football hotbeds” for viewers and fans. Statista’s data shows that 62% of viewers of the 2018 World Cup hailed from Latin America, 56% hailed from the Middle East and Africa, 50% hailed from the Asia-Pacific region, 47% hailed from Europe, and 24% came from North America.
- Additional data from FIFA (and Nielsen) shows that the sport’s popularity is “growing in the US, India, and China,” though the US still has lower viewership than most countries (even though viewership in the states has grown in recent years). They note that the 80% of the population of the United Arab Emirates are soccer/football fans, followed by Thailand, Chile, and Portugal.
- In Europe, the five biggest markets for the sport are “Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, and France,” while 52% of Russians report being soccer/football fans.
Top Viewing Channels
- The 2018 World Cup was the first one offer viewers so many ways to watch the games, and as expected, digital viewership was extremely high. For example, BBC showed over 31.2 M viewers through their digital platform, a monumental global increase when compared to 2014’s viewership.
- For online viewership of the tournament (or for those who just want to check scores), the following five were tops: Espn.com, yahoo.com, skysports.com, sky.com, and usatoday.com.
- On social media, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, groups, and hashtags were booming with millions of impressions during the entire tournament. Snapchat also saw significant related traffic, posts, and impressions, though they are “more difficult to track in real-time.”
- In 2018, three of the top global soccer players had Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram follower counts to rival mega-superstars (of the US) like Beyonce and LeBron James.
FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP FAN DEMOGRAPHICS (2019)
- This includes a breakdown by age and gender, as well as by the regions with the biggest number of viewers, and the channels most used for viewing. The event was held in France, and was the “most watched FIFA Women’s World Cup ever.” More than 993 M viewers tuned in (for at least a little while).
Age & Gender
- As stated above, the audience includes both men and women for both the men’s and women’s tournaments, and includes those within the same age ranges.
Regions w/ Highest Number of Viewers
- The region with the highest number of viewers was Asia, mostly driven by Chinese viewers; total viewership from that entire region equaled 37.1% of total viewership (or 414.1 M viewers), with 342.6 M of those viewers watching from China.
- Africa showed the “largest uplift from out-of-home and digital viewing,” followed by North/Central America and the Caribbean, and Oceania. Notably, the games took place during the standard workday period for viewers living in the US and Canada, increasing the chances that the games were viewed digitally in those countries.
- The region with the longest viewership for the tournament was Africa and the Middle East; twice as many people tuned in from this region than tuned in to the 2015 cup held in Canada. The region with the second longest viewership was Asia, followed by Europe in third place, then North America and the Caribbean in fourth, Oceania in fifth place, and South America in sixth place.
- Of these regions, South America “saw by far the largest increase in reach, up by 560% in 2015.” Within South America, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil had the largest viewership.
- Of digital viewers, the largest segment for both the 2015 and 2019 tournaments hailed from China, with 74.4% and 58% of total digital viewers coming from that country (date-respectively). More than 1.08 M digital viewers from the United States watch the England vs US semi-final match, while this game was also the most popular for viewers from the UK.
- Also within digital viewership, the Netherlands showed 4.46 M unique viewers, up significantly from the 2015 total viewership from that region.
Top Viewing Channels
- Of the total audience reach of 1.12 B, nearly 124 M of them watched on something other than in-home TV. For the final match between the United States and Netherlands, nearly 264 M people around the globe watched, with over 178 M watching at home on TV and over 85 M watching OOH (out of home) or via digital media.
- Nielsen’s research shows that 481.5 M people accessed one or more of the games digitally, which is equal to nearly 42% of all viewers.
Two trends in global sports marketing that overlap are the focus on women’s empowerment in sports and cause marketing; many of the causes highlighted in sports-focused cause marketing are related to equality, diversity, and inclusion. Another trend, which has grown over the last few years, is the increasing focus on authenticity and exclusive deals on social media. An additional trend is the use of creative (and often immersive) marketing via streaming/score-checking sites and apps.
These trends focus most specifically on marketing for soccer/football fans around the globe, and secondarily on global marketing trends for sports of all types. In this way, the most-useful (and well-rounded) set of trends is provided. Notably, the trends were also geared toward the digital experience, as requested.
OVERLAPPING TRENDS: Focus on Empowerment of Women & Cause Marketing
- As noted in the demographic portion of this report, men and women both enjoy soccer/football, so marketing should not be limited to focusing on a male-only audience, as it is with many sports. Sustainability, activism, and standing up against the wrongs in the world (or in support of what’s right in the world) is a core focus of today’s marketing, and marketing to sports enthusiasts is no different. In fact, “cause marketing,” or using marketing campaigns to raise awareness of the sport and a particular cause, has increasingly grown in popularity, especially in the sports realm.
- One expert states that athlete-generated content is shifting “as more and more important sports personalities opt for using their authority to boost awareness for social issues that they feel connected to.” Notably, experts believe that “causes related to social issues, sustainability, and ecologism” are superior tools for generating increased brand awareness and trust, and for more intimately connecting with fans.
- The Drum reports that today’s consumers “want their brands to stand for something, and equality, diversity, and inclusion would rank highly in any list of causes.” Research from Nielsen shows that “84% of general sports fans find women’s sports more ‘inspiring’ and ‘progressive’ than the male version, which is seen by many as being more ‘money driven.’” There is an ever-increasing “receptiveness of the public to women’s sports,” and this trend has not gone unnoticed by marketers across the globe.
- For the 2019 FIFA Women’s Cup, the activism of many of the players was featured in a selection of the commercials and marketing collateral put out by brands for the tournament. Additionally, the equitable and fair treatment of women was one of the primary activist themes of the FIFA Women’s Cup, especially in light of the major issues seen within the US (lawsuit for equal pay), Spain (the team stood up to the abuses of their coach), and Australia (canceled a tour in protest over low pay) before the big games. According to the Washington Post, the activism “elevated this World Cup from an increasingly popular athletic event to something of a cause to rally around” for viewers across the globe.
- One example of this trend in action was Telemundo’s “Unstoppable Women” campaign for the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Telemundo is the largest broadcaster of the tournament in the US.  The campaign featured statistics about the differences in professional female soccer players pay (as compared to professional men in the sport), like the fact that “50 percent of global professional female soccer players receive no pay.” Other statistics featured in the spots were that a third of pro female soccer players need a second job to pay their bills in full, and that almost 20% have reported experiencing gender discrimination within the sport.
- With regard to the campaign, Telemundo’s head of marketing said, “It couldn’t be a better moment to showcase women. What we want to do is own the narrative of empowering women because it helps promote the visibility of the tournament.”
- For the 2018 FIFA Men’s Cup, Nike hosted the “We Won It In France” campaign that featured players from the French National Team (winners of the 2018 cup). The spots “celebrated the hard work of the French team and its players by drawing on their impoverished backgrounds in the banlieues of Paris and arid pitches of Marseille.” This player-audience-location narrative to the storytelling was expertly done making it “resonate with and involve their target audiences.”
- Other companies that got on board with the activism/empowerment of women theme of the Women’s Cup included: Johnson & Johnson’s “Because She Can” campaign, the Mars company’s #SupportHer hashtag, and Hyundai’'s “Thank You Letter” campaign in Australia.
- Global brands getting on the women’s empowerment bandwagon in recent years include Nike, with their “Dream Crazier” campaign that featured Serena Williams (tennis star) and called for “women in sports to fight back against gender bias and unfair stereotyping.” Other brands on-board with this trend are Budweiser, Barclays Bank, and Boots Cosmetics; each brand gave huge corporate sponsorships to UK women’s football teams and leagues in 2019.
- With general cause marketing (not necessarily related to women’s empowerment), brands like Sports England got on-board this trend early with their award-winning and ground-breaking 2015 “The Girl Can” campaign; experts state this campaign “was responsible for encouraging women to get more involved in sports.” It “swept Cannes Lions in 2015,” garnering tons of industry and consumer appreciation.
TREND: Authenticity & Exclusive Deals on Social Media Reign
- According to Digital Media Solutions, “Digital media has blown open the idea of what sports content is, who produces it, who controls it and who benefits from it.” Global consumers, and especially American consumers, want their sports content to be current, relevant, and available 24/7 in a variety of formats (like sports shows, games, fan boards, etc). Marketing via social media channels meets all these demands, has significantly increased in popularity over the last half-decade, and is expected to continue to do so (evolving as it ages) in the future.
- Social media platforms, like Instagram and Twitter for example, are ever-hot locations for marketing to sports fans. The channels offer “prime advertising space that can also be used to present a humanized version of athletes,” as well as 24/7 access and coverage of the sport.
- Many athletes host brand-sponsored Instagram and Facebook stories, which helps fan-followers feel like they’re getting “exclusive, behind-the-scenes style insights on training sessions,” and offers the chance for fans to directly interact with sports stars. Activity on these sites “creates a proximity between the sports stars and their fans,” and give brands the chance to “authentically sponsor the action.” The key to success on these channels in the current market is for brands to offer social sponsorships of athletes wherein the content that’s presented puts “the experiences of the experts at the heart of the brand’s campaigns,” and the campaigns offer co-marketing strengths for both the brand and the athlete.
- These platforms also offer the chance for a wide variety of different types of marketing collateral to be used; in addition to athlete- and team-related content, engaging fans through “various contests, posts, pools, or even live video sessions,” or encouraging user-generated content typically meet with great success.
- Additionally, ensuring the campaigns come with catchy hashtags is key to encouraging “fans to share their experiences with an event or sports team,” and thus increasing the chances that fans with interact with the brand, athlete, or campaign on social media.
- One great recent example is North Face’s social sponsorship of athletes like rock climber Alex Honnold. The brand featured content and athlete-hosted stories that promoted the athlete’s abilities, the brand’s products, and the soon-to-be-released documentary “Free Solo;” the film later won an Oscar. The stories weren’t just the sports star talking to fans, but also gave insider information and exclusives solely to those who tuned in for the live versions.
TREND: Immersive Marketing on Popular Sites Offering Both Streaming & Score-Checking
- MediaMath’s research shows that fans streaming the games live or just checking in for scores used five sites most often (as mentioned previously): Espn.com, yahoo.com, skysports.com, sky.com, and usatoday.com. Experts note that savvy sports marketers focus on these channels with their marketing efforts in order to get the biggest bangs for their bucks. Utilizing creative (and often immersive) marketing techniques on these sites and (sports-related) apps is a hot trend right now.
- One creative trend is the use of AR and VR; in these early days of this type of marketing (to keep it affordable and open to the largest consumer base), some brands are “making use of pre-existing platforms like Snapchat or Instagram to create immersive experiences” for audiences around the world (and especially for those who can’t attend the games or those who can only experience them digitally).
- The most common way of doing this in the sports world is by incorporating real-time AR features into pre-existing apps. Back in 2017, FC Bayern Munich created a feature in their app that allowed fans to “virtually insert themselves into selfies with the team’s star players,” and offered personalized strips with the online store. Team management reported that this “immersive experience … bumped up the club’s revenue.”
- Another example is the MLB (Major League Baseball) At Bat app, which provides extensive player data for players who point their phones at the field during live games; it also shows a live trajectory of a ball that’s been hit by a player. These AR-features are designed to enhance the game experience for fans.
- Immersive AR-based marketing applies not just to sporting events, but to sports-related merchandise, as well. Companies like Adidas and Nike offer AR-features on their apps that provide customer the chance to virtually try on products, like shoes, to make better decisions on which ones to purchase.
- Interestingly, experts note that initial testing has already proven the viability of personalizing football viewer experiences. In 2018, the FA and ITV paired together to run a test of “dynamic perimeter ads” during a friendly game between England and Costa Rica. The ads varied based on the viewers’ locations, with ads being “split into two feeds: one to the Americas, and the other to Asia, Australasia and parts of Europe.”