4 Years in the Journey of Football, Technology & Marketing

In the last of our World Cup seasonal blog posts, our Group Account Director, Lili Boev, takes a look at how far the whole gamut of technology, marketing, and football has come along in the last four years.

A lot happens between World Cup tournaments. I mean, four years is actually like 21 dog years in technology to humans. So much of what we saw as the future back in 2010, has progressed – sometimes for the better, oftentimes for the worse. And while we’ve grown older, marketing’s become leaner and more agile – unlike the England squad. But how far have we really come?

The Beautiful Game

THEN: In 2010, FIFA and Adidas unveiled what they touted to be the latest achievement in sport science, and a boon to the game – the Jabulani ball, the official playing ball of the 2010 Cup. Said to be designed to improve aerodynamics, players and managers wanted nothing than to put the boot into the Jubulani, saying that it’s 8-panelled design made the path of the ball through the air unpredictable.

One of the bigger disappointments of 2010 was FIFA’s decision not to implement Goal-line technology – the electronic assistant referee that’s able to tell if a ball went over the line or not. The lack thereof, that year resulted in what was arguably England’s finest ‘we wuz robbed’ moment (below)

NOW:  As a result of the England/Germany match, FIFA/Sony goal-line technology was implemented and rollout in time for the 2014 Cup. The system has already earned its keep, with France’s second goal against Honduras becoming the first instance in which it helped determine a goal. On the balls front, this year Adidas took all the feedback and research they gleaned from 2010, and produced the Brazuca ball, which so far has not set any negative ripples across the tournament.

Going Social

THEN: In 2010, brands were falling over themselves in an attempt to be ‘more social’ – but most efforts were piecemeal as companies were still trying to find their feet in the new medium. The South African World Cup was the largest period of sustained activity for any event in Twitter’s history, with over 2,000 Tweets Per Second during the last 15 minutes of the match, and 3,051 tweets per second when Spain scored its winning goal.

However, the real action was to be found over on YouTube. YouTube’s mobile traffic rose by 32% on post-match mornings, along with a rise in mobile data consumption, up 16%. Nike stole the show with their 2010 ad garnering a whopping 19.2 million views on its original upload during the tournament – the conversation was in the comments, with hundreds of thousands of comments being generated.

NOW: Already this year, the number of tweets generated about the Brazilian World Cup have far outpaced the total number of tweets for the 2010 tournament. Twitter has become the second screen experience – the live commentary/shouting box for fans and pundits alike, and with the platform re-releasing it’s emoji-like ‘hashflags’, along with its ‘World Cup Hub’ the medium looks to be even more colourful this year.


FIFA finally launched their World Cup Facebook page – and with the brand police on the lookout for any ambush social marketing, they’ve pretty much got a lid on the biggest social platform in the world. Similar to Twitter, Facebook has a ‘Trending World Cup’ page, along with a ‘Fan Map’ to show both trending news and sentiment about players from across the platform. It’s pretty clear the advances that mass data processing and analytics have made within that four year span.

Devices, Devices, Devices

THEN: 2010 saw the explosion of the mobile device. Smartphones were pretty much ingrained into the world populace, and the iPad made its debut triggering off the ‘tablet wars’. Users for the first time had the opportunity to interact with content wherever and whenever they wanted. However, as the chart from ThinkWithGoogle below shows, mobile search and engagement was nowhere near that of desktop. Only about 18% of searches for games, players and teams during the World Cup final were done on a mobile device.


However, according to Allot Mobile Trends’ 2010 study, mobile data bandwidth usage increased by 24% during the World Cup matches, along with mobile video streaming by 11%. The demand was there – but the infrastructure was not. 3G wasn’t widely rolled out across the globe, and many service providers still had stringent data caps on consumer plans.

NOW: Mobile is everything.  Let’s take a look at an updated index from Google, comparing desktop and mobile search during a UEFA champions league final. The difference is staggering.


Any marketer who isn’t aware of the importance of mobile by now, has been living firmly under a rock. Mobile transactions accounted for more than 1 in 5 payments globally in March 2014. 40% of all YouTube traffic originates from mobile, and ebay generated over $20 billion worth of transactions via mobile in 2013 – it’s a big deal.

The audience is now clearly mobile-centric. Google highlighted that for 30 days between April and March 2014, users watched over 64.7 million hours of football on YouTube – that’s over 900 times the amount that was broadcast globally during the 2010 World Cup! Our Head of Creative Services, Ger Ashby, also had a look at how device usage has changed in the last four years – check out his blog here.

Email Marketing & Design

THEN: Oddly, there are very few repositories of old email campaigns. We did find the finalists of Marketing Sherpa’s 2010 Email Campaign Awards. This however, just illustrated that features such as dynamic content and personalisation, based on advanced segmentation seemed to only be achievable by the larger tech giants with big banks of user data. In addition the majority of email marketing strategy blogs were concerned with ‘optimising for Outlook 2010’.

With under 7% of all email being open on mobile devices, designing mobile responsive emails wasn’t a priority for many brands, and reading email on a phone was case pinching and squeezing. Take this old example of our newsletter. It looks *okay* on desktop.

old email

Is four years long enough for something to be called retro?


But as soon as we switch to mobile view (courtesy of our preview tool)…

email mob

Trying to read this on a smartphone would have taken a lot of pinching and squeezing, possibly even resulting in a few accidental clicks on those right rail bars.


NOW: In four years, the scene has totally changed. With cloud data solutions becoming the backbone of pretty much every single major ESP coupled with the implementation of HTML5 and the birth of other, more complex coding platforms, the medium of email has undergone a rebirth.

The ability to personalise email content based on a variety of user data – from browsing behaviour, geo-location, purchase history and social engagement – is now widely available, to all marketers. As such, marketers are able to design cleaner email campaigns that won’t overload the user.

Here’s our campaign from this year. The hero image has taken prominence, unnecessary text has been scrubbed, and the mobile-responsive version is scroll friendly. This particular campaign contains a dynamic content block, which changes based on user preferences.

So – Have things gotten better?

Across the board, the barrier to entry for marketing is substantially lower than it was four years ago. The proliferation of social and ease of use of marketing management tools has given marketers a lot more power. However, given recent studies, such as dotmailer and eConsulancy’s Speed Imperative, marketers still appear to be time poor.

Just as in football, while the skills and pace of the game have increased, the problems remain the same, i.e. you’ve still got 11 men to dribble a ball past! In marketing similarly, the audiences and tools might be in different places, but the problem of how and where to reach them remains the same. Check out Ger Ashby’s sister blog post, for more details on how device and email client usage has changed in the last four years.


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