By: Nick DiMeglio
Sounds weird right, but this year the two are happening together for the first time ever. You might have seen the Fox Sports commercials strategically placed during the initial weeks of the NFL season featuring Jon Hamm as Santa Clause and how “the largest sporting event in the world” was going to steal his holiday. Didn’t see that ad? You surely saw the ads on Fox Sports during the MLB playoffs once again featuring Jon Hamm, Tom Brady, and Mariah Carey getting people ready for the World Cup while talking about the Christmas Miracle that the U.S. winning it all would be. While the World Cup is being held during one of the most exciting times of the year for the Western world- it is actually creating some complexities that typically are nonexistent when the competition comes around.
When the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar back in 2010 the weather conditions quickly became a topic of conversation and due to the countries scorching heat during the summer it meant that the tournament had to be moved to November and December with the finale just one week before Christmas Day. Such a change has created problems for sponsorships and advertising as a whole.
With the World Cup aligning so closely with the Christmas holiday there will be clear ramifications “on marketing budgets and use of space in store.” Due to marketing budgets, any activity will need to seamlessly blur the lines between the World Cup and the holiday season to create a conjoining campaign to deliver maximum impact given the expected cost of advertising during the Q4 holiday cycle. The food and beverage sector seems to be one of the most competitive. Due to the collision between the tournament and Christmas for the first time, it leaves many food and drink companies feeling they can’t afford to miss out which will only further inflate the floor pricing to get ad space. Alcohol brands will likely have to rely on retail sales as a holiday World Cup will likely result in more fans opting to watch from home due to budgeting and financial obligations that come with the holiday season.
The reality is that most brands pursuing World Cup activation will end up sacrificing a portion of their holiday budget, which is still the most important trading event of the year. The marketing director at one of the UK’s largest retailers- Marks & Spencer stated that, “our customers have told us that a winter tournament means they will be putting themselves on a ‘self-imposed lockdown’ in the run up to Christmas, staying at home more and cutting back on trips to the pub, eating out and even getting takeaways at home.” It is estimated that more consumers than ever in the UK will watch the games from the comfort of their homes, with just over 26 million veering away from traditional venues such as local bars and restaurants. While this will certainly affect the hospitality economy, it gives retailers the opportunity to take advantage of fans consuming at home during the tournament. Consumers will already be in the “saving money” headspace and offering competitive discounts and special offers will be imperative. Maureen McDonagh, managing director at VoucherCodes advised that “aside from deals, you can also ensure you have incentives such as rewards or loyalty points running throughout the tournament to encourage customers to return and shop with you ahead of future games.” With the fact that most of the tournament will be held during the morning hours in the U.S. and Europe, FIFA has realized that some of its typical sponsors may not benefit or have an interest due to the change in dayparts so they have prioritized finding breakfast/cereal partners to strict sponsorship agreements with.
Another area that can see some effects is the betting industry. In just 2018, over $140 billion was wagered during the World Cup and $2+ billion wagered per game on average. As mentioned earlier, Christmas expenditures and festivities are sure to affect the retail and hospitality industry, but it also seems as though the betting industry will feel the effects as well. In the same token, the World Cup will also be competing for betting dollars for the first time with the peak of fall sports like the NFL, NBA, College Football and even NHL being in season. In a typical year, the World Cup may see some competition for interest and engagement via the MLB or the PGA Tour but at least in the domestic market, the fall/winter season will bring far more competition for betting dollars as well as viewership and media attention.
These factors have caused the brands activating around the World Cup to not just get creative but produce a memorable experience to break through the clutter. A primary example being Crypto.com and Visa. Many people may remember the plethora of Crypto ads displayed during the 2022 Super Bowl via the billions of dollars spent on ad space by companies such as Coinbase and Crypto.com, well we can expect some of the same during this year’s World Cup. Crypto.com will be one of FIFA’s key partners for the 2022 World Cup and actually have plans to collaborate with Visa to allow fans in Qatar to create their own NFT on-site. Fans will have the ability to play a four-minute, six on six match within the FIFA Fan Festival where the playing field will capture their movements and create unique GIFs in the colors of their favorite national team. The players will then have the ability to receive their unique GIF as an NFT via a Crypto.com account.
To conclude, another developing area of concern involving sponsorships and advertising during this year’s World Cup is regarding the host country's views and rights. Numerous brands have become content with scrapping the idea of having onsite sponsorship this World Cup cycle due to recent claims pertaining to Qatar’s human rights violations, including towards LGBTQ+ communities and abuse towards migrant workers that assisted in the production of the venues and resources needed to host the competition. This along with advertising restrictions due to local legislation, unusual timing around the holidays, and other economic factors have caused some brands to look beyond the World Cup to alternative events in Q4 and Q1 of 2023.
While the World Cup and holiday season usually is a time of jolliness for many- the clash of the two together may prove troublesome.