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Advertisers can score big during this year’s FIFA World Cup

A white outline of a TV shows a soccer ball with a play button on it. A soccer goalies hands catch the ball on the screen.

Illustration by Sarah Kim / Getty / The Current

Streaming viewers for the tournament are expected to double in large countries.

This year’s FIFA World Cup will be more accessible than it has ever been, thanks in large part to the rise of streaming and digital platforms — allowing advertisers the opportunity to reach highly engaged audiences around the globe through data-driven channels.

New data from consumer research firm YouGov and The Trade Desk measured interest in the World Cup. This year, streaming viewers for sports are expected to increase in large countries, compared to 2018, or the last time the World Cup was held, according to the survey, which analyzed the preferences of roughly 8,300 people across the U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, France, Spain, United Arab Emirates, and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in late June. Nineteen percent of those surveyed in the U.K., for instance, plan to stream the games this year, up from 12 percent in 2018.

The data underscores that traditional strategies in reaching highly engaged viewers through live sports have changed, as more people shift to streaming their favorite teams. All of this in turn provides opportunities for advertisers, Ross Benes, senior analyst at Insider Intelligence, tells The Current. “When a share of viewing shifts from linear TV to a streaming alternative, it gives advertisers the ability to show different ads to different people watching at the same time, and it allows advertisers to use more data to target their ads and get more thorough analysis after the campaign finishes.”

Benes emphasized that streaming sports is still growing, adding that linear ad buys provide more reach, but lack granularity. “For greater precision, advertisers should mix in ad buys with the streaming provider, allowing them to run [an addressable campaign] that emphasizes their intended target,” he says.

The World Cup is being held in Qatar this year. Due to the country’s scorching weather, the tournament will be held during winter for the first time in FIFA’s history, between November 21 and December 18. Games will also be played at night due to the hot climate, meaning viewers in New York can watch a 7 p.m. game in Qatar at noon their time.

By the numbers
Much has changed since the last World Cup kicked off in Russia four years ago. Back then, linear TV was the primary way most people watched the tournament. But the global pandemic and the rapid advance of streaming platforms have upended those behaviors. Nearly 66 million U.S. viewers plan to watch live sports through digital channels in 2022, up 19 percent year-over-year, with the World Cup serving as a major driver of this shift. In the U.S., for example, only 56 percent of those surveyed will watch the tournament via traditional, linear TV.

Meanwhile, the report found that that 59 percent of consumers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are most interested in this year’s tournament, followed by the UAE (58 percent); Germany (53 percent); Italy (52 percent); Spain (47 percent); the U.K. (40 percent); France (38 percent); and the U.S. (23 percent).

Aside from the host nation, people from Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, Spain, UAE, and the U.S. were among the countries that purchased the most tickets for the games. Nearly 2 million tickets have already been sold for this year’s tournament, according to FIFA.

And not surprisingly, interest for both the semifinals and championship matches are expected to be a massive draw for all countries included in the survey. All data was collected online and results were sampled and weighted to be representative of the general population in each country.