World Cup spurs increased social media advertising spends

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After spending millions on World Cup social media tie-ins, advertisers seem to be showing a new interest in social media, according to digital ad firms responsible for ad buys.

Facebook and Twitter will benefit the most from this trend, which is only fitting since both companies have long maintained news feeds are ideal for advertisers as a way to tap into massive attention and enthusiasm for TV-based live sporting events.

Sports viewers frequently turn to social media for discussing games — often during the games as a “second screen,” like tablets or smartphones, or immediately after the game.

Approximately 620 million people tuned in for at least 20 minutes of the televised 2010 World Cup finals, according FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.

World Cup-related social media ad spends rose from less than a million dollars to the multimillion-dollar range, according to digital marketing firm SocialCode, which specializes in serving large advertisers, such as finance and media brands, to develop social media campaigns. (To put it in context, one 30-second Superbowl spot sells for about $4 million.)

“To illustrate the scale, we’re seeing some brands advertise across 180 countries,” said Harry Johnson, SocialCode’s director of ad innovation and senior ad manager James Donner in a recent email to Business Insider.

Ad buyers have increased social marketing budgets over the past few years, especially around huge events like the World Cup or Olympics.

“They’re absolutely willing to spend more on social,” says Doug Chavez, the global head of marketing for digital firm Kenshoo, tells Business Insider.

Sponsored posts on Facebook received most of the social media ad spends, but promoted tweets also saw significant investment, says James Donner of SocialCode.

Usually, sponsored posts are photos, since text posts rarely get “traction,” he adds.

A few brands do not have to pay for promoted tweets because they are more “organically” popular, without the need for paid promotion, Chavez notes.

Smart marketers learned that while the game is in progress, Twitter conversations trend. They have figured out when is the best time to engage. For example, Snickers sent out a widely shared “More satisfying than Italian” tweet after Luis Suarez, the star player from Uruguay, bit an Italian player.

Most brand-generated content, however, needs a paid push. “If you’re paying for the creative, it will be a waste of resources not to put paid behind it,” Donner says.  “Owned reach is typically small.”

World Cup-related campaigns bring double to 10-times the engagement (by way of likes, comments, shares) than the average social media campaign, according to SocialCode. Costs of World Cup-linked social media ad buys also went up by about 20% from the standard rates, balanced by the ability to reach a wider audience.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.