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Of the official World Cup sponsors, Visa’s Ibrahimovich play runs best in the UK

Ibrahimovich leads Visa's creative

Before the kick-off of the World Cup, retired Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich teased that he will be attending the tournament to Jimmy Kimmel, this sparked speculation that he would make his national side. It turned out official sponsor Visa was taking him along for the ride as ambassador - a play that appears to have paid off in the UK.

Kantar Millward Brown studied 12 of the most prominent World Cup campaigns that have landed in the UK so far, and found that of the official sponsors, Visa’s work resonated most with viewers. Ibrahimovich did spend several memorable seasons at Manchester United recently, helping to explain his resonance in the market.

Kantar Millward Brown's AdExpress tool is the source of the data. It measured each campaign across 12 dimensions including sentiment, retention and more, scoring participants against a UK average. Facial recognition of viewers was also implemented to test whether they followed the storylines and whether each ad landed.

While it found Visa to top the list, England sponsors Mars and Lidl also ranked high, likely due to the national side making the quarter finals. The research noted that each spot had a relevant call to action whether it is Visa's contactless tech, Mars’ football competition or Lidl’s support of the grassroots game. Across the 12 metrics, each brand was largely better than average.

Meanwhile, Adidas, Nike and Beats all appeared to under-perform. They scored lower than average for getting their brand across in the ad. Adidas and Nike also scored lowest on the ‘enjoyment’ metric. The sports brands also reportedly failed to deliver new information to the viewer. According to the research: “They did not manage to forge a connection with UK consumers, largely because they failed to tell a good story or make a meaningful point.”

Graham Page, managing director of Kantar Millward Brown’s Offer and Innovation sector, said: “Advertising around major sports events is much more successful if it gauges and harnesses the mood. ‘Real’ stories and humorous situations work better than big, grandiose or earnest ads, which don’t really connect with consumers. The World Cup is all about joy, so the ads that are about struggle and weighty causes are not widely resonant.”

Check out The Drum's World Cup coverage here.