By Davis Freeberg
I used to think that soccer was an extremely boring sport to watch. I always just thought of it as a bunch of people kicking a ball around and couldn’t appreciate the nuances of the game. Luckily, four years ago a buddy of mine dragged me out of bed at insane hours and forced me to watch the World Cup with him. At first I protested, but after a few games it didn’t take long for me to catch World Cup fever. What Soccer lacks in high scores it makes up for in suspense. Knowing that at any moment your team could win or lose creates a tension that results in huge highs and lows when when crucial plays happen.
This year’s World Cup is no different for me. So far I’ve caught ten games and I can already tell you that the next month will be a freebie for Netflix because there is just too much World Cup on and too long of a time in between tournaments.
One of the great things about the World Cup is that unlike our wimpy American sports, it doesn’t have a time out or commercial break every 10 minutes. The game pretty much runs for 45 minutes straight, then halftime and then another 45 minutes of uniterupted soccer action. Because of it’s format, Soccer has been a bit of a challenge for advertisers because it removes a lot of 30 second spot sales and with ad zapping you can especially skip the extra 30 second spots that they try and cram into the halftime show. To help counteract the loss of their precious 30 second spots, ABC has started to use banner advertising on the screen. While this might be a way that they can force viewers to watch ads, I found it pretty ineffective because my eyes were focused on the constant movement of the ball. The only time that I really noticed these ads were at the end of the games when I paid more attention to the clock.
The other major ad spot for the world cup was the signage at the stadiums. There were a lot of companies that were more then happy to pay top dollar to have their ads on the side of the field, but of these companies, Yahoo! was the clear cut winner when it came to the effectiveness of their signage. I’m sure that Yahoo! was forced to pay a premium to do this, but they negotiated to have their signs in the corner of the stadiums. This is important because one of the most crucial moments of a soccer game is a corner kick and everytime the camera focused on the player who was about to strike the ball, you could see Yahoo!’s sign in the background.
What made this advertising so effective was that not only do they get a fair amount of brand exposure throughout the game, but they got that exposure at a critical time when viewers instinctively pay more attention because the drama is heightened. Whether this was planned by evil scientists in Yahoo!’s marketing department or whether they accomplished this on accident, after watching ten games of World Cup action, I found myself immedietely getting excited everytime my eyes caught a glimpse of the Yahoo sign. Not only did I find that I noticed the signage more, but it had me drooling like Pavlov’s dog everytime the camera focused in on their big blue logo. Yahoo!’s prime placement of their ad created a way that their brand could be associated with more then the World Cup, but with the excitment that soccer fans feel when they can sense something big is happening.
By tying their ad to crucial moments in the game Yahoo! was able to make me feel that excitment in seeing their brand. With so many advertisers forcing their brand exposure on consumers, it’s hard to stand out. Whether it’s pop-up banner ads or 30 second interruptions, advertisers need to learn that there are more effective ways to tie their message to the programs that they are supporting. Whether it’s Yahoo!s consideration of what viewers feel when they see their ad or the tying of an ad to a loved character in a show, the more that brands can effectively associate themselves with the programs consumers love, the more effective they’ll find their efforts. I’m not sure how much extra Yahoo! paid for their prime real estate, but whatever the cost, by linking their brand with a tense experience they scored an early goal in the advertising World Cup.