How can brands navigate the tournament?

The Qatar 2022 World Cup is due to begin two months today

While the location of this year’s Qatar 2022 World Cup makes it the most controversial yet, it is still a huge global moment that fans across the world will want to engage with, and brands be a part of.

This is the first time a men’s football World Cup has been held in what is dubbed the “golden quarter” because it is the busiest of the year for advertising.

And while it is expected to have a $2bn positive impact on ad spend, its presence in the run-up to Christmas means it will create more competition for media, higher prices and the need for bigger and more careful planning. 

So, how can brands cut through the festive noise and sensitively navigate the 2022 World Cup?

Advertising beyond TV

Two months out from the tournament’s opening match, any brands only just looking to capitalise on the tournament will find that TV advertising slots are already taken so they must think beyond television if they are to be involved. 

According to media group Footballco, more than 60 per cent of fans engage on social media immediately after a match. Given that fewer fans than usual will be travelling to Qatar, this year digital advertising will become even more important. ITV has already shifted its soaps to digital channels and adjusted I’m a Celebrity so there will be minimal overlap with the World Cup.

During the last World Cup in 2018, the top post from the competition’s official TikTok account generated more than 73m views, even though the platform was only just getting started. If brands are willing to navigate a sea of social conversations, they may just see a significant return for investment. 

Investing in 2023

When festive meets football only a few brands will be able to conquer the two together successfully. While staying true to the brand proposition and not creating too many moving parts is likely the best approach, there is an opportunity for brands to add a flavour of sport to their usual festive advertising. 

But for some brands, the coming together of two major media advertising moments will mean they decide to delay spend until the first quarter of 2023, to avoid paying higher prices. 

Brand purpose

There is an opportunity with this year’s World Cup to highlight brand values over product. For example, we have seen several brands, who, in addition to highlighting the excitement at home, are looking to send people to Doha and report back on the World Cup happening beyond the stadiums and the TV cameras – showing the reality on the ground, both positive and negative. 

Campaigns in Europe, which in the past have often focussed on the host country or city, will likely be more generic about football overall and the theme of “togetherness” and national pride – despite this being a World Cup for the few not for all. 

While the macro-economic backdrop across the UK and globally is delicate, there is still a real opportunity for brands, as much of the activation is delayed, to capitalise on this year’s World Cup successfully, creating the message of solidarity and community that we all need right now.  

James English is a partner at sports and entertainment agency Fuse.

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