Not participating in the World Cup? Here’s how you can still win

By Puja Pannum, managing director at Blis MENA

The World Cup: whether it’s vuvuzelas or 7-0 thrashings, it’s the sporting event of the year that is sure, as always, to have a massive global impact. As for brands, it’s a crucial time to drive awareness and sales – Coca Cola, Visa and Adidas, for example, have already partnered with Fifa. Big ad budgets are dedicated to the biggest, most memorable campaigns with great creatives and ‘always on’ strategies which continue throughout the games. So, from a MENA standpoint, how can brands tap into this opportunity using location data to maximize their takings from the beautiful game?

Football to drive footfall

First things first, it’s all about the nifty footwork. If you truly want to harness the power of the World Cup this year, you need to start by understanding as much as you can about your potential customers. You can greatly enhance this process with the help of location data. In many ways, where people go is who they are, and the data which surrounds people’s comings and goings provide a whole wealth of information beyond latitudes and longitudes. Brands looking to understand more about their potential customers can construct whole profiles about consumers from this information and make sure they only approach consumers with what they actually want.

Geo-fencing – setting a virtual boundary at a particular physical location and monitoring device IDs that show up there – is one of the key ways of harnessing this information. Geo-fencing sporting arenas and stadiums allow marketers to build segments of potential customers who attend sports events. You could enhance this, for example, by collecting device IDs of consumers actively purchasing sports equipment online, or visiting the FIFA website directly. During Singapore’s 2017 F1 race, for example, Blis set out to measure the effect of the event on local business. The geofencing of race locations allowed the construction of key target audiences, with these device IDs subsequently being monitored at key hotels, casinos, restaurants, and shopping malls. The results were clear, with F1 event spectators boosting business at local restaurants by 173% and local shopping malls by 82%.

But it’s not just the ‘where’s’ and ‘what’s’ that matter, but also the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’. When targeting sports fans’ devices, context is key. You’ll want to target them when they are out and about – at shisha cafés, hotels or at sporting venues by identifying and serving ads to your ideal consumers currently within a set distance of single or multiple defined locations. When you know potential consumers are on their feet, your ads will be more likely to drive them into shops. And if they’re at home, don’t just give up – leverage their historical location data and retarget your customer with an ad encouraging them to shop in a particular store next time they are out.

Behavioral data will also help you target an audience for maximum engagement, saving you from wasting valuable budget and turning off customers with things they don’t like, want, or need. For example, you might consider targeting females more whilst a football match is in-play, as their other half may be more distracted by the game.

Creative Football Frenzy

This kind of tailor-made, strategic thinking should also apply to your creative too. To really make the most of the audience data you have at hand, think about how it can be leveraged alongside creative, to reach the right consumer at the right time and place. A degree of awareness around the different stages of the World Cup will go a long way. Creative messages should ebb and flow as intensity and engagement change from first rounds, through to quarter and semi-finals, and of course the all-important World Cup final.

What’s more, digital marketers need to make sure their creative is every bit as pleasing to the eye as the beautiful game itself. Rich media formats, video and interactive ads should all feature as part of your campaigns. Snapchat, for example, has mastered new technologies such as AR and facial recognition to create immersive ad experiences. Creative filters are especially appealing and can improve brand recall and drive engagement and sharing.

And when it comes to serving your creative ads, meaningful use of location data can help. Think about the context of your audience: which creatives are most appropriate for when potential customers are watching the game in their homes, versus when they are in a café? Dynamic local ads that draw on the specifics of a location (like the weather, or the user’s proximity to a sports venue or outlet) can give your campaign the edge. There is a range of platforms available to marketers to help achieve this. With the right attention to customer profiles, you can fine tune your personalization techniques to deliver the most engaging creative at the right time. In a campaign with adidas, for example, Blis targeted consumers at a local mall browsing for fashion and entertainment content. These consumers were targeted later with rich media advertising relevant to their location – whether near their local Adidas store or relaxing at home. The result was a 22% uplift in footfall, with 226 devices instore on one day of the campaign alone.

Thinking “glocal”

Last but not least, making a marketing success out of the World Cup will require an international perspective. But at the same time, advertisers will need intimate knowledge of their local markets. You can’t have one without the other. When you manage both a global and local strategy at the same time, you’re thinking “glocal”.

Marketers need to draw on expertise from partners who can bring the experience of running global campaigns alongside the ability to understand local markets. In practice, this means delivering dynamic creatives from around the world, shaped to fit each city according to its particular culture and identity.


You don’t have to be an expert at football to get the marketing right during the World Cup. But you do need to keep your eye on the ball when it comes to your target audience’s movements, and the creatives you’re planning to wow them with. With the help of compelling creatives served to the right individuals in the right context, marketers will be able to reap the rewards of one of this year’s most exciting international sporting event.

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