Webinar Overview and Takeaways: The World Cup Playbook for Driving Earned Media

On March 26, I had the opportunity to attend a webinar presented by AdAge and Visible Measures in which Seraj Bharwani, Chief Analytics Officer of Visible Measures, discussed how companies can maximize earned media around their upcoming World Cup campaigns. In this article, I’ll include an overview of the presentation and a few of my key takeaways.

The FIFA World Cup is a high stakes event for brands and marketers. Millions of consumers around the world live and breathe soccer, presenting advertisers with an unmatched opportunity in terms of audience size. The 2010 FIFA World Cup Final is still the most watched TV event to date, attracting over 715 million viewers (24.3 million U.S.).


The World Cup is also an extremely social event—four years ago, fans from 172 countries posted 11 million Tweets and the event remains the largest sustained social activity to date. Because of its social nature, the World Cup is an earned media gold mine.

Simply put, earned media is any viewership derived from word-of-mouth advertising or social sharing. When the World Cup rolls around in June, brands will distribute their content across several channels where users will watch these clips and possibly share them with friends. The subsequent views driven by the act of sharing are considered earned media.

Visible Measures found that earned media is the KPI with the most comprehensive impact, positively affecting engagement, efficiency and effectiveness. It also drives the highest lift in consideration and purchase intent. Obviously, tailoring you marketing strategy to optimize for earned media is essential.

So what works? The campaigns that proved most successful focused on one of three themes: crowd sourced (11%), celebrity themed (36%), and pride/patriotism (53%). We’ve included examples from the 2010 FIFA World Cup for you below.

Crowd Sourced: Visa Go World; True Reach 6 million views, Earned Lift-Placements 18X

Celebrity Themed: Nike Write the Future; True Reach 45 million views, Earned Lift 7X

Pride/Patriotism: ESPN One Game Changes Everything; *no webinar statistics*

If you’re able to generate enough traction around your World Cup campaign, not only will you be reaching an engaged audience online, but you may also receive coverage in traditional media, boosting overall brand exposure. Though excitement over the World Cup has yet to fully explode, brands including Adidas, Nike, Visa and Budweiser have already started releasing content online.

After going over some of the best practices for World Cup marketing, Bharwani dove into the heart of his message: how can companies exceed best practice performance? He described six main components for maximizing ROI on your World Cup investment:

1.    Setting an Earned Benchmark: What earned lift percentage are you shooting for? Bharwani notes that a conservative measure would be around 50% earned lift, but some brands have aimed as high as 350%. He mentions this lift is based on how well brands utilize the variables below.

2.    Media Budget: You have to reach audiences well beyond your fan base. Sometimes companies tend to think that throwing content at existing fan bases will generate enough online viewership and engagement; this is not the case. Bharwani asserts that you do have to spend money to spark excitement amongst targeted, passionate audiences. Spending levels on previous campaigns have ranged anywhere from $500K to $2 million, with some reaching even $3-4 million depending on the company’s marketing ambitions.

 3.    Target Affinity: What is the audience you are going after? Simply uploading content to YouTube or Facebook will not allow you to reach the masses. Enthusiasts may not share your content if it’s already “out there.” They want bragging rights (i.e. they want to share new, undiscovered content with friends and family). Bharwani encourages brands to think about how they will reach these fans in their “hide outs” or niche sites while the content is still new, cool and relevant. You have to leverage consumer’s sharing behavior.

 4.    Flighting: Roughly 50% of the overall viewership for 2010 World Cup branded videos happened before the first kickoff. The excitement preceding the event is significant, therefore pre-game seeding is effective even as more advertisers release content during the pre-event window. Visible Measures found that videos released pre-event in both 2013 and 2014 have 3X more reach than those that were not. Launching campaigns pre-event is still an important marketing strategy.

 5.    Media Mix: Consider ad formats—they have to be opt-in! A pre-roll, even with a share button, is not intended for sharing. You’re interrupting an experience, which greatly decreases the chance of a viewer sharing your video. You have to give users the choice to watch. This means you’ll need to invest in promoted video formats and SkipStream, anything outside of YouTube where you run TrueView.

 6.    Key Partnerships: What key media partners are going to help with your distribution strategy? Even though YouTube and Facebook boast large audiences, these sites should play only a small role in your larger distribution plan.

Visible Measures has data that shows the complementarity of a mass audience platform when combined with a target affinity aggregator—a company that reaches out to these passionate, enthusiastic audiences on their niche sites in order to deliver them the right piece of content at the right time. This gives viewers every reason to share your videos widely and aggressively before everyone else has seen them.


We believe that earned media is the most valuable metric for video marketer—taking these tips from Bharwani to heart when planning your World Cup campaign should prove beneficial.

Releasing content pre-event, even if you’re not a Fortune 500 company, is a great way to capitalize on building excitement. As the World Cup looms closer, companies should see increased engagement and viewership with related content as fans begin to celebrate around the world.

Content discovery isn’t just happening on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. People have favorite websites they frequent and delivering relevant content to them on these sites is one of the best ways to drive earned media. Viewers will be more inclined to view and share your content organically, generating additional viewership across their own social networks.

Whether you’re an SMB or enterprise, creating some kind of campaign for the World Cup will enhance your visibility amongst a sizeable, passionate, international audience. Take advantage of all the excitement around the event and join in the fun with entertaining, branded video content.

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