Scoring a Goal for Advertising: Six Marketing Lessons Learned from Watching World Cup


Frankly, this is an article I had to write. After all the hours spent watching World Cup soccer matches, I must justify it with at least some business learnings. If you, too, find yourself searching for ways to write off those pints and hours, this article will hold a special place in your heart.

Also, as written in my previous article “A Little Less Oedipus and a Little More Caligula”, it always pays to gain inspiration outside our often overly introspective online world. So don’t just take this as a blatant attempt to write off a few beers — there are true hidden learnings we in the advertising world can take away from the World Cup.

This year marked the most viewers ever in the United States to watch the World Cup. Who did you root for? Better question: Why? Looking around at all the newly chosen loyalties, it was incredibly interesting to see the rationale behind the choices. For some it was from where their parents or ancestors hailed. For others, their last vacation spot; or friend’s favorite team; or favorite color uniform. However, it was amazing to see how fervently new fans rooted for their newfound loyalties thanks to the passion involved and energy expended by the players.

The point being two-fold. One, in constantly changing and burgeoning markets, people are rarely “born into” loyalties anymore. Sure, you have your Steelers fans and Coke loyalists. But, cell phones, online marketplaces, energy drinks and even many expanded/relocated sports teams don’t have generations of dedicated fans that build self-perpetuating familial fan-bases. Second, once a loyalty is chosen, the loyalty can immediately become passionate and dedicated if properly encouraged and built around a community.

So, as you market your latest product or service, be sure to ask what you are doing to move from a mere purchase to much more profitable loyalist building. Better yet, further ask yourself what you are doing to infuse that new loyalist with passion and fervor to make them lifelong fans and customer evangelists.

Sure France had Zinedine Zidane (and, we’ll return to that later!) and Portugal had Cristiano Ronaldo, but when you look at the other two teams to make the Semi-Finals, neither Germany or Italy had any stand-out, international stars. The sum of the units being more powerful than any one star is an interesting concept that is being played out in academia as well.

For instance, in the new book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki details example after example where groups actually perform better when they rely on the collective wisdom of varied individuals with varied levels of intelligence. Many groups actually begin to suffer when too many experts are all called upon at once. It’s often the non-experts that ask the “dumb questions” or provide outside insights that lead to break-throughs in conjunction with the experts.

As creative agencies and strategic planners, this speaks volumes toward making sure we force ourselves outside of our “silos” to gain outside perspective — whether that be hiring offline people to bring into the online world; or, offering first-year employees an equal shot at major creative conceptualization; or, simply listening to the opinion of that spouse who “doesn’t even know what MySpace is.” After all, most of the people in this world are not experts, so wouldn’t it make sense to use non-experts to help create for them?

It’s just as brilliant to come up with the right question to ask a non-expert as it is to come up with an expert answer all on your own.


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