The World Cup in data: who were the real winners and losers?

Most viewed sponsored World Cup Winners

The combination of a summer heatwave and a national side that made it to the semi finals of the World Cup has helped buoy brands, publishers and sponsors alike. Here, The Drum breaks down the latest stats on the winners and losers of the marketing frenzy.

Cigarettes and alcohol

According to Nielsen, in the UK, shoppers spent £358m more during this year’s tournament than they did in the same period in 2017. Total sales were up 3.8% but some sectors in particular jumped; snacks were up 8.8%, tobacco 7% and alcohol 14.3%.

Matches and lighters saw the greatest percentage growth during this period, with a 39.2% uplift. Beer and cider (28.8%), frozen desserts (25.9%), insect control (22.4%) and soft drinks (16.8%) were also up.

Nielsen has attributed much of this uplift to the heatwave but noted as England were dropped out of the tournament, spend growth slowed.

Gemma Cooper, commercial business partner, Nielsen said: “Looking ahead to the next World Cup in 2022, the recipe for early summer success will be hard to replicate as host nation Qatar has announced that the tournament will be played in November and December. This said, we know the Christmas spirit can bring the English together in similar ways.

"Who knows, maybe we will be toasting England’s successes through the tournament with mulled cider, hot squash and mince pies. It’s clear from this data that retailers and advertisers alike should bear in mind how England’s performance in flagship tournaments like the World Cup affects consumer mindset and behaviour.”

Viewing habits

In separate research, video analytics company Tubular Labs took note of the views throughout the tournament, with YouTube the most active platform (3.5bn views), followed by Instagram (2.2bn views) and Facebook (2.1bn views).

The most viewed sponsor content videos are as follows.

5. Budweiser: 'When the GOAT scores a hat-trick! Share your reaction video with the #ReactionChallenge' (3.1m)

4. Hyundai: 'Goal of the Tournament' (4.7m)

3. Budweiser: 'Can't wait for the kickoff of the World Cup quarter-finals tomorrow!' (5.2m)

2. Domino’s Pizza and SportBible: 'Jimmy Bullard Caught Watching England Win 6-1 At World Cup' (6m)

1. Budweiser: 'How Latinos react when Mexico qualifies to the next round of the #WorldCup!!!' (10.2m)

While organizer Fifa boasted some of the most viewed videos on YouTube, Daily Mail topped the list about a deaf-blind soccer fan who still finds a way to enjoy the game (13.7m views).

Instagram seized the highest viewed video on its on platform with freestyle footballer Lisa Zimouche (13.5m views).

Video by @lisafreestyle “Freestyle football has no boundaries,” says Lisa Zimouche (@lisafreestyle), an 18-year-old from Paris who travels the world performing agile tricks with nothing but a ball and her feet. ⚽️ “My first memory of football is when I was 6 years old,” says Lisa. “I saw some French freestylers putting on a show, and ever since I saw them playing, I wanted to do the same thing.” Leading up to the #WorldCup, Lisa is excited to see people rallying around their teams. “My favorite part of the World Cup is the vibes,” she says. “People from each country supporting their teams, and everybody coming together around the same sport.” Check out today’s story to see Lisa and a few fellow freestylers do their thing. A post shared by Instagram (@instagram) on

On YouTube, Sony Entertainment Television, Fox Sports, Vivo, Comcast and Disney/ESPN were the most viewed media properties. On Facebook, it was Visa, LadBible, Keli Network, Real Madrid and Disney/ESPN again. On Instagram, 9Gag, Turner/Bleacher Report, 433, Beautiful Destinations and LadBible took the top spot.

The company also unearthed some demographics, those engaging with football content on YouTube were 80% male. More than half of YouTube football viewers were men between the age of 18-34.

Which footballers are an open goal for the next tournament?

Football publication Goal also shared some of its findings with The Drum. It engaged with 159m fans during the tournament and has learned which players are the biggest hits with its audience.

It said Ronaldo beat Messi to the top spot for generating the most page views, 10.3m against 9.8m. Non-World Cup coverage was not included in these stats. Neymar only took 6m views trailed by Kylian Mbappe (3.1m), Luka Modric (2.5m), Antoine Griezmann (2.1m), Harry Kane (2m), Mohammed Salah (1.4m) and Romelu Lukaku (1.2m).

James Dickens, Goal’s global editor-in-chief said: “Being able to cater for global football fans puts us in an enviable position at Goal and presents us with data that helps us to understand them better.

“Publishers and brands recognise that Ronaldo and Messi won’t last for ever and that new stars will have to take their place. Russia 2018 is regarded by many as the both players’ final World Cup, giving us four years to find their heirs.

“Four years is a long time in football, but it’s sobering to see that aside from Neymar no player comes close to matching them for global appeal. However, with youth on their side, I’d expect young players like Mbappe, Kane and Lukaku to continue to rise in prominence and become football’s next global megastars."

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