How Fox Sports Pulled Off a Massive World Cup Marketing Campaign

Its Qatar strategy is the biggest in network history

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Fox Sports has embarked on its largest marketing campaign in network history ahead of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar, which begins Sunday.

The company initiated a host of activations around the country, many of which will continue throughout the duration of the tournament.

This year is the first time in World Cup history that the tournament will take place in the fall, instead of its standard summer slot. The shift into an already jampacked sports slate create a unique challenge for the broadcaster, and led to the creation of the “Tis the FIFA World Cup” marketing campaign.

“At the outset, when you start strategizing, from a broad network perspective and broad reach, you can’t really sell a soccer tournament. It’ll appeal to more core soccer fans, but for something of the nature of the World Cup, you have to sell something broader than a soccer tournament,” said Robert Gottlieb, who was recently promoted to president, marketing of Fox Sports.

That’s the purpose of the campaign, which launched in July with a spot starring Jon Hamm as Santa Claus. Two followup spots—featuring Tom Brady, Mariah Carey, the U.S. Men’s National Team, Ellie Kemper and more—rolled out throughout the fall.

In addition to making traditional media buys across broadcast, print, online and social, Fox Sports is allocating more dollars than usual into out of home marketing, which Gottlieb attributed to the timing of many of the key matches.

TV is where we can get scale for that activation and messaging

Robert Gottlieb, Fox Sports

The custom themed OOH posters will be placed strategically, recognizing that many people won’t be home during the matches.

“Probably the most strategic shift in the traditional media buy is the time zone thing,” said Gottlieb. “[People] are going to be at the office, they’re going about their life. We divvied up in a way that we usually wouldn’t on digital outdoor kiosks in major cities.”

In New York, there will be live real-time kiosks showing that the match is currently on with the game clock, score and a call to download the app and watch live.

Scaling experiences

Outside of traditional media, Fox Sports is executing a slew of campaigns across the country, with activations that aim to scale and grow audiences.

“Our media budgets are not what a gigantic, multiglobal brand would be,” said Gottlieb. “We really need to squeeze demonstrable value out of everything we do. If we can build something that’s inherently very visual, we can make it something that can go on TV and TV is where we can get scale for that activation and messaging.”

For the first time, the network will have a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade World Cup-themed balloonicle called Striker, the U.S. Soccer Star.

NBC has the broadcast rights to the parade—and also to the Spanish-language U.S. broadcast, which will be on Telemundo and Peacock—but the two companies collaborated to get Striker in the celebration.

“That was a tenuous discussion because obviously the parade is broadcast on NBC, and closely aligned with NBC and that corporation,” said Gottlieb. “We have a very good collaborative relationship with NBC. We share so many properties.”

Fox Sports is installing World Cup snow globes in various cities across the U.S., also with the intent of growing scale.

The first snow globes appeared during Game 6 of the World Series earlier this month, and will make appearances at the Chiefs vs. Chargers game on Sunday, as well as at the Space Needle in Seattle. Fans can also see the globes at the Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game, Michigan at Ohio State on Nov. 26, and at the Pac-12 and B1G Championship games in December, as well as in several other locations.

“By virtue of dropping a snow globe outside a college football game, you’re going to hit 50,000 people on site, but then you can get it included in the broadcast and get two million more people,” said Gottlieb.

“The activation becomes something that scales. TV is probably the most broadest, easiest button to get to scale,” he added, noting that it’s hard to bank on something going viral on Instagram, Twitter or TikTok.

Influencers will be promoting the World Cup wearing custom “ugly” Christmas sweaters, leaning into the holiday theme.

In another effort to draw in the casual fan, Fox Sports will be hosting watch parties of key matches in New York City’s Times Square and Port Authority.

“There’s a massive amount of commuters going through Port Authority twice a day, so to be able to have an activation [there] will really help, like ‘oh, the game’s on’ and then hopefully they get on their phone as soon as they get to the office and watch the rest of it,” said Gottlieb.

There will also be a partnership with betting game Fox Super 6 for a $1 million bracket challenge—the first time Fox has been able to use Super 6 with the Men’s World Cup.

“This is a good way to introduce the Super 6 brand into our World Cup effort,” said Gottlieb, adding it’s another point of entry for casual fans.

What about advertising?

Fox Sports hasn’t yet given an update on how much ad inventory is remaining in the World Cup.

Telemundo previously announced its World Cup ad sales hit “record revenue” ahead of kickoff, with just a handful of units remaining.

And over in Qatar, earlier this morning FIFA made a U-turn two days before the tournament kicks off, announcing that alcoholic beer will not be sold inside the perimeter of the eight 2022 World Cup stadiums in Qatar. That could be a problem for sponsor Budweiser, which has a $75 million sponsorship agreement.