5 Social Video Facts Every Marketer Should Know About the World Cup and Super Bowl

5 Social Video Facts Every Marketer Should Know About the World Cup and Super Bowl

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The World Cup turned out to be the prime global marketing event of the year, and arguably the biggest marketing event of all time. The Super Bowl is, of course, the annual Belle of the Advertising Ball. Both sporting events attracted millions in sponsorship and merchandising rights, and we at marketing tech company Unruly tracked the most-shared branded videos from both tentpole events. Videos were ranked by the total number of shares (though we also track views like others) because this is the true measure of social currency, buzz and advocacy.

5 Key Marketing Findings From the 2014 World Cup and Super Bowl

Below are 5 key social video findings from the tournaments that brands can learn from as they launch their next tentpole marketing event. For further inspiration, you can check out the most shared ads of the week here.


#1 Launch Timing is Everything

The top-shared ads of the World Cup and Super Bowl were launched in advance of the TV matches. The Super Bowl, which like most tent pole events, has a single day broadcast saw one runaway winner when it came to ads. With almost 2 million shares, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” was the runaway winner of the tournament, but, with a few distribution tweaks, it could have been Microsoft’s “Empowering” (which finished 16th overall in Big Game sharing). We tested both of these ads using the Unruly ShareRank algorithm, and the ads have similar scores, elicited strong psychological responses and gave viewers strong social motivations to share online. The difference was the launch timings.

Budweiser launched its ad online the Wednesday (the optimal day to release content) before Super Bowl Sunday, and was able to achieve two viral peaks (one after launch and one on the second day after the game aired). Microsoft waited until the day itself to launch and missed the opportunity for dual peaks.

The top-shared ads of the World Cup were also able to benefit from the peaks of activity surrounding the zeitgeist event by launching in advance.


#2 Sharing Peaks Prior to Schedule TV Broadcasts

Looking at the World Cup, the majority of online video shares took place just before the games kicked off (based on sharing numbers of sample of five World Cup ads). Looking at sharing patterns around the most popular World Cup ads, we noticed that sharing peaked at around 9-10:59am ET, prior to a lot of the early kick-offs in the tournament. The biggest global spike was between 9-9.59 am ET.

During the games themselves, sharing tended to drop off, suggesting that people were simply too engrossed in the matches to pick up their phones, tablets and laptops and share. This is similar to the Super Bowl, where sharing flattens on the day itself, but then rises again the day after. The 2014 Super Bowl saw the advertisers that waited to launch their videos online on Super Bowl Sunday hurt by that strategy. Especially those that aired their commercials in the latter portion of what turned out to be a blow-out of a game where viewer attention likely waned as the game progressed.

#3 Anticipation Peaks Before the First Match of a Series

Anticipation in the hours leading up to the opening match between Brazil and Croatia meant that video ad shares on the opening day were the highest of the entire tournament. In fact, 65% of the video shares generated by the sample of ads we selected occurred in the first week-and-a-half, as interest waned during the tournament (based on sharing numbers of sample of five World Cup ads).

This follows Unruly’s Social Diffusion Curve, which shows that the top video ads generally attract the vast majority of their shares in the first week and then experience a severe viral decay in the week that follow. Other sharing spikes occurred on June 13, the day after the tournament began, and June 17.

World Series and Summer Olympics sponsors, keep this in mind as your next sporting events are spread over many days as well.

#4 You Don’t Need to Be a Sponsor to Win Online

The World Cup saw lots of event “hijackers.” Nearly three-quarters (69.6%) of the shares from the most shared ads of the 2014 World Cup chart were for brands not affiliated with the tournament. Despite creating almost twice as many videos (143 v 267), none of the top three most shared brands (Danone, Nike and Samsung) are FIFA partners. And, let’s not forget Newcastle’s success around the Super Bowl with “Behind the Scenes of the Mega Huge Football Game Ad Newcastle Brown Ale Almost Made,” which featured Anna Kendrick.

#5 Gain Memorability by Using an Emotional Trigger

Humor is the most commonly deployed psychological response, the hardest to do well and the most culturally sensitive. However, Unruly has identified 18 psychological responses that can drive sharing behavior when evoked intensely by a video. As humor can be so tricky, we often suggest that brands look to the 17 other psychological responses as a starting point for creating shareable content. Evoking these other emotional responses can also help content to stand out from the crowd.

The ad with the most shares from 2014 Super Bowl (Budweiser’s “Puppy Love”), the ad with the highest share rate of the Super Bowl (Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful”) and the ad with the highest Unruly ShareRank score (Microsoft’s Empowering) all leaned on other responses (happiness, warmth, inspiration, pride and amazement), without a joke in sight. Same goes for the World Cup. Yes, some ads had humorous moments, but the top shared ads (Danone’s “LaLaLa,” Nike’s “Winner Stays,” and Castrol’s “Footkhana”) made use of leveraged amazement and exhilaration as primary drivers.


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