All Eyes on Tactics in the Run Up to Qatar 2022

Flags of the qualified countries for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Corniche Doha

By Artiom Enkov, Head of Insights  and Analytics at Nano Interactive

The 2022 World Cup is less than two months away, and just like the teams, advertisers need all of the tactics at their disposal to compete on the global stage.

While catch-up, streaming and smartphones have all arguably led to a more fragmented ad market, three things are worth noting. First, regardless of screen, attention is still king. Second, nothing tops live sports for that engagement. And third, from November 21 to December 18 this year,  FIFA is expecting five billion people across the world to watch the tournament – well over half the global population.

Other sources seem to back up this claim – with Statista saying more than 50 per cent of UK adults, in all age groups up to 65 are planning to watch Qatar 2022. And in the US, up to 40 per cent plan to stream the competition. In short, despite the calendar switch to the northern hemisphere winter months, there would appear to be no drop off in engagement from fans.

First Q4 World Cup

With the final taking place just a week before Christmas, this will surely be a unique Q4 for advertisers, which is already a peak ad spend period even without Qatar in the mix. But if it’s a one-off in terms of opportunity for brands, how will it play out in terms of competition?

As demand increases, prices follow. So far so obvious and we see this most clearly in paid search with CPC inflation. But the same is also true in TV and display, especially where advertisers are all pursuing the same tactics. And with Google now postponing sunsetting cookies in Chrome until at least 2024, behavioural targeting via the cookie is still advertisers’ staple.

But meanwhile, as analyst Matthew Goldstein suggests, “most estimates say that Apple is 40-60% of the impression volume in the US and growing”. The same is likely to be true elsewhere and this half of the consumer market continues to be unreachable by cookie-led campaigns.

Forward-(and arguably even present-)looking agencies and brands are already perfecting new targeting approaches that don’t involve profiling and privacy risk. And tactics including contextual are also not as yet subject to the same pricing pressures around major events.

But more specifically, what might those contextual approaches to Qatar 2022 look like – analysing intent, sentiment or content, both in advance and in real-time during the competition itself?

Qatar in Context

No one could have predicted the level of impact England’s success in the Women’s World Cup earlier this year would have. Nor can we predict how Qatar will pan out. But the planning around context-led campaigns has already begun. As we know from other events, intent and impression volume will build as the cup progresses. Pre-built models and categories – informing both planning and creative – can have any number of criteria, be it national team, to individual players, groups and matches, all the way down to kick-off times.

The second factor to note is the live, in the moment capabilities around context. Oreos famously grabbed attention at the Superbowl with its ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ campaign. And while (non-Oreo) cookie signals may be anything up to a month old, using content as a proxy for audience means you can tailor and target creative around trending stories on the fly.

By parsing content impression trends, it is also feasible to measure the intent demand and sentiment around almost any aspect of the event, from venues to how the ever controversial video assistant referee (VAR) is doing.

Next, although World Cups have traditionally been viewed overwhelmingly as branding opportunities, the timing of Qatar 2022 may present its own performance-related opportunities. Meanwhile, context in its present form may take into account the search queries delivering people to the page, meaning new options for direct response. And second, relevant content categories – for example, gaming and apparel –  may go further in audience terms than the cookie.

Finally, ethical concerns and controversies often accompany major sporting events – especially so, it would seem this year. Human rights issues and climate change feature high on this list – and contextual targeting allows us both to side-step or actually confront these problems directly.

Powerful and detailed controls, plus the ability to include boolean (and/or) logic give context advantages over other approaches here. While being able to consider content sentiment on top of this provides greater targeting controls than simply ignoring a topic altogether.

With the emergence of ‘brand purpose’, many brands, not limited to charities and NGOs, may wish to target people highly engaged with such topics around the World Cup – and do so live and in the moment they peak.

In conclusion, just like the teams competing in Qatar, advertisers need to be on top of all of the tactics available. If most countries adopt a 3-5-2, you’d be missing a trick not to try another formation. And last but not least, don’t leave too much riding on the performance of England. Or indeed Wales, playing in their first World Cup for 64 years. That is surely one way of guaranteeing football doesn’t come home.