When FIFA agreed to push the dates of the 2022 World Cup from the summer to the end of the year—a shift necessitated by Qatar’s punishing climate, with temperatures in June averaging 107 degrees Fahrenheit—World Cup organizers have set the stage for a record TV viewership, and in turn, record ad sales numbers.
For many advertisers, the fourth quarter is a make-or-break period which often determines whether a business turns a profit for that calendar year. Q4 also coincides with a frenzy of stateside economic activity; U.S. consumers spend about $300 billion more during those three holiday months than they do throughout the rest of the year, making it that much more important for advertisers to get in front of American eyeballs.
In addition to shining a spotlight on global soccer, the 64 World Cup matches between Nov. 20 and the Dec. 18 final will bring a significant number of advertising minutes on top of the seasonal sports slate enriched by NFL and college football games.
“Q4 is going to see a significant uptick in web/broadcast traffic and advertising spend as a result of World Cup 2022,” Federico Grinberg, EVP of Playmaker Capital and CEO of Futbol Sites, said in a Zoom interview with Sportico. “Soccer is the world’s most popular sport and, because the World Cup occurs only once every four years, it’s a tentpole spectacle that corporate advertisers are eager to attach themselves to.”
During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, companies across the globe spent an estimated $2.4 billion on advertising despite the fact that two massive markets—the U.S. and China—did not participate. China will also miss the 2022 World Cup, but with the USMNT and Mexico in the competition, the U.S. advertising market will see an uptick.
“Based on our estimates, the ad sales are 25% to 30% above 2018,” said Kevin Collins, SVP, group director of Strategic Investment of Magna Global. “Which makes sense. The U.S. men’s team wasn’t in it.”
In addition to traditionally heavy spenders such as Visa and Coca-Cola, tech companies such as Uber and over 15 sports-betting operators have already committed to advertising on Playmaker Capital, a sports media company with a focus on betting, and Futbol Sites, a regional sports media group in Latin America, properties for World Cup 2022.
“The reality of it all is the World Cup has never been in the fourth quarter,” Jose Garriga, VP of Telemundo global sports sales, said. “So by default, with all the incremental audiences, the World Cup will come in on top of the biggest quarter in this country.”
In 2018, Telemundo’s Spanish-language presentation of the World Cup and Fox’s comprehensive coverage generated $225 million in ad sales revenue, per Standard Media Index estimates. Fox’s sales were down 29% versus the $319 million pulled in by Disney and Univision over the course of the 2018 World Cup, a shortfall caused by lower-than-expected ratings. Because the networks failed to meet the performance guarantees they made to their advertisers in advance of the tournament, both companies were on the hook for a significant volume of audience deficiency units.
Garriga said the sales process for the FIFA World Cup gets underway a full two years before the start of the event, and has translated to a 90% sellout of Telemundo’s in-match inventory 60 days before the first game of the tournament. “We’re still entertaining clients who want to own Thanksgiving; we want to show up right before Christmas. And we will continue to do so through, the World Cup Final. So we’re open for business, but not for long.”
While inventory is limited for television advertising, the opportunities across the various digital platforms are practically infinite. The 2022 World Cup will mark the first time that games will be simulcast on NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock and Telemundo’s content brand Plus.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Footballco, the world’s largest football content and media business, witnesses various peaks in ad revenue during the year. While Christmas is not one of them, the World Cup is. “We’ve already seen traffic and engagement at record levels in 2022, via this season’s record-breaking Women’s Euro and a busy transfer window,” Seth Hart, SVP of sales for Footballco, told Sportico. “We’re seeing this reflected in the demand for the World Cup as well as pre-World Cup, with brands asking about opportunities pre-November as a way to get ahead.”
Hart said Footballco is also seeing an interesting increase in briefs targeting family time and co-viewing experiences, which is to be expected, given the confluence of the Christmas holiday window and the staging of the World Cup.
As befits the expected flood of marketing spend, the creative itself a high priority. Of the 5,000 fans surveyed in Footballco’s Global Portrait of World Cup Fandom in 2022 report, 60% said World Cup adverts are more memorable and entertaining than the daily onslaught of standard TV ads. “Combine that with the time of year when creative agencies push out their best work and we should see some real competition for attention, both online and across broadcast,” Hart said.
During November and December, fans will be laser-focused on whether 35-year-old Lionel Messi, playing in his final World Cup, can finally bring a FIFA World Cup trophy to Argentina for the first time since 1986. Advertisers and the tournament’s media partners, on the other hand, will be taking advantage of the unconventional World Cup scheduling, which presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take advantage of a captive audience that normally isn’t easy to reach during the pre-holiday scramble.
“The incremental audience and the incremental budgets will make the fourth quarter one of the heaviest spends on the advertising business in the history of the game,” Garriga said. “And that will not be repeated. Because in 2026 we’ll return to a World Cup that we played in the summer.”