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439 Million World Cup related searches have been made since the event started on June 12th. The opening game scored record ratings for ESPN, outpacing every other cup dating back to 1930. Something is driving these breakthroughs, and I did an investigation to find out what it was. Here are the ten marketing plays that have helped the 2014 world cup become the most watched in history.

1. Use controversy to your advantage:

  • In a country where it’s unsafe to take a taxi and ATM’s are nothing more than tools for hackers to rob unwitting tourists, one stadium received $900 million dollars in construction money to be built for the World cup – and there are thirteen more stadiums that all got funded by the government.
  • Riots and protestors occupied building areas, until they were forced out by militia – around the world news of violence surrounding the cup has spread like juicy gossip.
  • The World Cup took the negativity in stride and used it to boost viewership, as the games have started; the bad press has subsided to be replaced by vast audiences.

2. Highlight personal stories:

  • Will Ronaldo play in the Cup? Does Van Percy have what it takes to be an all-time great? Will Pepe get another red card? These are the questions that help drive the massive search traffic devoted to the World Cup this time around.
  • Personal stories can take a huge event like the World Cup and make it apply to every individual viewer. For example, you may be watching the story on Ronaldo and be reminded of a time when you fought through a physical ailment for the greater good, or you may sympathize with Pepe’s anger over opponents flopping.
  • While each game is watched by millions, these stories help make the even feel personal to every single viewer.

3. Bring global stories to light:

  • The England – Italy rivalry, the Netherlands – Spain finals rematch, the USA – Ghana comeback match; these are the stories that headline the World Cup. They help reaffirm our patriotism while providing an added element of flare to the event.
  • The World Cup gets help from the fact that countries are playing each other, but the principle of categorization is nothing new. When we are banded together with those who are like us, it creates a feeling of comradery with the other people in our category.

4. Have a clear goal:

  • All World Cup marketing starts and ends with the games. They have one goal, to get more people watching
  • It helps to know what the purpose of your entire marketing campaign is and build every new asset around that goal.

5. Understand the public perception of your product:

  • The opening act at the World Cup opening ceremony in Brazil was composed of two performers – one from Cuba and another from Puerto Rico
  • The public doesn’t necessarily know the difference and these performers have international recognition.

6. Remove the barriers to entry:

  • Head to and you’ll find official logos, copy, and materials – everything needed to run a story about the World Cup that looks amazing.
  • These are all available royalty free for commercial purposes, encouraging news sites and individuals alike to create content around the Cup.

7. Create sound-bites worth remembering:

  • Chants, songs, cheers – all parts of the world cup that stick with us
  • Build memorable snippets that represent your brand well and use them as methods to remain at the top of your audience’ mind.

8. Create different content for segments of your audience:

  • The promotional video for the United States features celebrities calling our nation to action, with small clips of futbol shown in between. The promotional video for Germany is composed entirely of futbol clips woven together with music.
  • The marketers responsible for these videos understand their audiences. In the U.S. futblo (or soccer as we call it) is just beginning to catch on as a popular sport, and very few people know who is on the national team.
  • In Germany, futbol is a way of life, kids train to play the sport from the age of six, and the team members are considered national heroes.

9. Use what you have in various ways:

  • Highlights, team profiles, slideshow, and reviews – all ways that the World Cup has effectively re-used their most valuable asset – the games themselves.
  • Your best marketing pieces can be cut up, rebuilt, and republished on different platforms to maximize reach

10. Partner up with complementary people:

  • A list of drinks from each country, comedians mocking the art of flopping, World Cup inspired Adidas websites – these are just a few of the ways the World Cup has expanded its reach by forging partnerships with different industries.


The 2014 world cup is smashing records all over the place, and there is a method behind the hype. Their tactics can be distilled down and used in every marketer’s plan – we can all be champions.

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