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When England's campaign to win the World Cup gets under way against the USA on Saturday, almost half of those watching will be women, with a record number of female viewers expected around the world. But most of the advertisers who buy TV slots during the 64 tournament matches will still be focusing on men.
What has been dubbed “the first real digital World Cup” is expected to smash overall viewing records, thanks in part to the development of online TV and of smartphones such as Apple's iPhone that will allow fans to watch on the move or discreetly at work.
When it comes to traditional TV viewing, the World Cup is not solely for the lads and lager audience. The proportion of women viewing the World Cup has grown from 39% in 1998 to what is expected to be a record 42% in South Africa, according to media agency Initiative.
In the UK the proportion of women watching the World Cup has stayed stable at about 38% since 1998, but when it comes to watching England matches that number jumps to 46% almost one in two viewers. “An England football match will be one of the highest-rating female shows of the year,” says Kevin Alavy, a director at Initiative.
But ITV, which shares the UK broadcast rights with the commercial-free BBC, is asking advertisers to pay a pretty penny to tap into the massive World Cup audiences.
Despite the promise of large audiences, high-end costs are prohibitive for many brands that might otherwise look to go beyond the typical male-focused World Cup ad campaign and target female viewers. “While the percentage of female viewers during the World Cup might be attractive to advertisers, the cost of reaching them will be less so,” said Gary Birtles, chief executive of Initiative.
Not the right environment
“A female-targeted advertiser would pay considerably more to reach women in a World Cup game than they would in a primetime show such as Coronation Street. Also, for some, the World Cup won't be the right environment for their brand.”
Hovis, which has just launched a TV ad targeting women featuring a cheeky young girl, is pulling its campaign for the World Cup it will return in August. Lastminute.com is to launch a “World Cup Widows” themed campaign and Umbro, the official kit supplier to the England team, is to completely avoid matches with its football ad, instead targeting entertainment shows.
Yet for many advertisers running heavyweight ad campaigns during the World Cup is non-negotiable. The World Cup, like the Super Bowl, is the traditional window for massive TV campaigns. The UK TV market is set to benefit by as much as 50m from the event, according to analysts at Screen Digest, with ITV in line for a 30m ad revenue boost.
Time to make an impact
Nike, which has forgiven ITV for accidentally cutting the denouement of the debut of its three-minute star-studded World Cup commercial during the Champions League final last month, is one of a number of advertisers launching blockbuster ad campaigns. “It is one of the times when everyone's eyes are on football,” said Charlie Brooks, communications director for Nike Western Europe. “For a football brand like us, it's a moment in time that is definitely important to make an impact.”
Similarly, adidas is using the England versus USA match to debut a Star Wars-themed World Cup ad. The German sportswear giant has hijacked the bar scene from the first Star Wars film, splicing stars including David Beckham, Franz Beckenbauer and a light-saber-wielding Snoop Dogg into original scenes featuring Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The rise of digital technology since the last World Cup in Germany is also set to give viewing a massive boost. The BBC has the iPlayer and ITV is simulcasting matches on its ITV Player online service as well as to iPhones. Research from media buying agency Starcom MediaVest suggests that the internet and mobile phones will “come into their own” this summer for millions of fans. More than 2.5 million intend to watch more World Cup coverage online at work, compared to Germany in 2006, while more than 1 million football-loving men intend to watch matches via mobile, according to Starcom MediaVest.
The rise of internet and mobile TV also neatly solves several potentially thorny scheduling clashes for sports fans this summer. Andy Murray's latest attempt to conquer Wimbledon could be vying for BBC airtime with England's final group match against Slovenia on 23 June, while the World Cup quarterfinals on 2 July may overlap with the semifinals of the grass court grand slam. With their TV set, computer and mobile phone to choose from, sports fans need never be far from the World Cup this summer. — © Guardian News and Media 2010
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