Fifa Facebook Media

The largest football stadium will be Facebook and Instagram


By Michael Feeley, Founder and chief exec

November 23, 2017 | 6 min read

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With the world’s most popular sporting tournament taking place next summer, Facebook and Instagram are leveraging their massive popularity among football fans to provide marketers and advertisers with opportunities to score…

Football Fans

Facebook's For Every Fan

On 14 June, 2018, the most famous sporting tournament on the planet, the FIFA World Cup, will kick-off for the twenty-first time, with Russia as host. While 32 teams battle it out on the pitch, millions of football fans around the world will share their love for the game on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook has more than 400m football fans as users, while Instagram, which joined the Facebook family in 2012, offers more than 140m. Football, in fact, is by far the most popular sport on both platforms, with three times more followers than the next most popular sport, basketball. Facebook’s director of comms planning in Northern Europe, Ian Edwards, believes that this level of engagement offers unrivalled opportunities for marketers.

“In 2014, 350m people produced over 3bn interactions with World Cup content on Facebook, more engagement than any other event in the platform’s history,” says Edwards. “Bearing in mind that Instagram was a young player last time round, this year’s tournament is set to be even more massive across both platforms. For marketers, the potential is huge.”

Big match, small screen

Edwards believes that to successfully engage football fans, online marketers need to understand the consumer trends shaping the way we experience football.

“Sport is no longer something that only happens in a stadium or on television. It’s happening across multiple screens, with 90% of sports fans saying they use a mobile device while watching games. What’s more, our data shows that mobile usage of Facebook increases during the commercial breaks of major TV shows and football matches.

“Mobile phones have also created a 24/7 appetite for football content online. When we analysed football conversation over an average month during the regular football season we saw 1.6bn interactions with football-related content. Factor a global football tournament World Cup into the equation and you can imagine how those numbers will skyrocket.”

Edwards points to how mobile has also created new ways for fans to interact with their heroes, with players offering privileged access to their off-field lives through Instagram and Facebook.

“94% of sports fans on Instagram use the platform to see the personal side of athletes. This kind of authenticity is especially important to millennial and Generation Z fans.”

The rise in mobile has, of course, also led to an explosion in video consumption. Three times more video was uploaded to Facebook in 2016 compared to 2015, while sports fans on Instagram watch twice as much video as non-fans. During Euro 2016, there were nearly 1bn views for videos related to the tournament.

Edwards says: “People spend five times as long looking at moving versus static imagery on Facebook. Not using video as the centre of your sporting campaigns on Facebook and Instagram would be a little like buying TV time during the Christmas period and then running a static image.

“Considered together, these trends point the way forward for marketers hoping to leverage the power of social media around next year’s tournament.”

Three new global communities

While football fans are a diverse bunch, Facebook has discovered three distinct personalities among the hundreds of millions of fans on their platforms. As you would expect, each of these personas has different needs and expectations and respond to different creative approaches. “It’s important to consider the different types of fans drawn to such a massive global event,” says Edwards.

The first of these, Match Maniacs, are “predominantly young men whose lives revolve around football,” says Edwards. “They revel in rivalries with friends and are twice as likely to report watching a sports match than the general population.” There are 103 million Match Maniac on Facebook and Instagram, with especially high numbers across EMEA in Italy, the UK, Germany, France and Spain.

The second grouping is Homeland Heroes: moderately engaged fans who regard supporting their national team as part of their identity, particularly around big games. Homeland Heroes are more evenly split between male and female than Match Maniacs, and tend to be more family-oriented. There are 160m Homeland Heroes on Facebook and Instagram, with the largest numbers in Egypt and Italy, across EMEA.

The third type of fan, Social Supporters, are always looking for cool ways to show their influence and join in the fun. “These friends of fans are mostly female and love the energy of the event rather than the details of the match. They are 1.6 times more likely to discuss food or drinks in their posts as they organise social events around sporting events World Cup and, crucially, are at least twice as likely to buy consumer packaged goods online,” says Edwards. There are 307 million Social Supporters on Facebook and Instagram, with the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Egypt all ranking highly.

Edwards says: “Facebook and Instagram are constantly creating new tools to help brands tell great stories to different audiences. We offer immersive 360 Video, Instagram Stories (created by 300m people every day), and Facebook Live, which lets any brand become a broadcaster on mobile.

“With all these new formats, we recognise that creating video for mobile be a challenge. Brands have had six decades to learn the rules for television, but mobile is still in its infancy. At the same time, that means there’s a huge opportunity to experiment and innovate. To help brands know what great creative looks like on mobile, we’ve created an interactive gallery on Facebook’s Creative Hub that offers examples and lets them mock-up their own Facebook and Instagram creative.”

For marketers hoping to target football fans, it looks like the goal is wide open.

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