Despite being the most popular sport in the world, soccer has long been an afterthought in American athletics. For brands, that history has cast a shadow across the pitch. Why invest in "the beautiful game" if there aren't enough fans to witness it?
This attitude has started to shift over the past decade, however, as soccer has gained relevance and surpassed the NHL and golf in popularity, per Pew Research. For advertisers who were skeptical in the past, this is a significant development. The fact that soccer is growing but still lacks the numbers to compete with football, basketball and baseball for colossal TV contacts is actually an opportunity for marketers looking to address new viewing habits and create cohesive cross-channel strategies that don't involve cable promotions or expensive sponsorships.
Cross-channel marketing and soccer make a great fit because the sport's fans share a global perspective. This means that regardless of the location, brands can be a part of the discussions where fans talk about their favorite teams and players. During the last World Cup, for example, just about every major social platform—from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram—saw incredible engagement spikes. And according to Adobe Digital Index (ADI), social posts from the U.S. related to the UEFA Champions League more than doubled from 2014 to 2015.
What's more, soccer's domestic growth isn't only tied to a global tournament played every four years. In fact, soccer may even be ready to take on America's most popular professional sports. According to ADI data through June 2, the Champions League overpowered the NBA Playoffs in terms of social buzz. When breaking down the data to look at individual players, it turns out that one soccer phenom had 3.5 times more social mentions than basketball's biggest star.
This means that brands thinking about content that connects across different channels have the ability to drive a compounding reach. During the World Cup, for example, Nike triggered 6 billion impressions with its #RiskEverything campaign across TV, movies, the Internet, social media, gaming, mobile and out-of-home marketing.
The cornerstone of the campaign consisted of animated videos of some of soccer's biggest stars, but Nike still made sure the different channels influenced each other by getting viewers to ask questions on social media. And since everything was animated, it was easy for Nike to create specific content that suited each channel. Short 15-second clips posted on the company's social accounts could tease the longer videos that went up on YouTube or were broadcast on television. Like players on a team, each channel had a purpose that contributed to the overall success of the campaign.
With ample star power and incredible social influence, the takeaway for marketers is clear: When it comes to cross-channel marketing, soccer is ready to kick it with the big boys.