How to avoid a World Cup content marketing own goal

Jon Davie is UK CEO at Zone, the digital marketing agency which counts Coca-Cola GB, Tesco, Barratt Homes and Prostate Cancer UK among its clients. Jon writes a monthly content marketing column for The Drum.

With the start of the World Cup just a couple of weeks away, the Brazilian organisers aren’t the only ones going into overdrive.

Across the land, marketers and agencies are also fine-tuning their preparations, putting the finishing touches to plans carefully crafted over the past 12 months.

Unsurprisingly, that means there’s a lot of World Cup content out there, from brands and traditional media outlets alike. It’s a good opportunity to think about the challenge that faces all of us in content marketing – in a world where content is ubiquitous, how can we make sure that our stuff stands out from the rest?

The thing we have to remember is that content itself isn’t a differentiator. There is no content angle on the World Cup that hasn’t already been done – the world is awash with fantasy leagues, prediction games, sweepstakes, squad profiles, travel guides and chances to “win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the home of the Beautiful Game” (© every World Cup Partner with tickets to Columbia v Greece in Belo Horizonte to get rid off).

It’s not content itself that makes a brand stand out – it’s the point of view that informs that content that matters.

The UK newspaper market demonstrates this perfectly. All the papers will have the same World Cup content – match reports, previews, fixtures, features and stats. But newspapers have a very clear ideological view of the world, and that makes the way they produce that content highly distinctive.

The Sun will back our boys all the way, calling out the divers, cheats and dodgy refs who will undoubtedly conspire against us. The Guardian will appreciate the superior technical skills and tactical subtleties of the top sides, bemoaning the one-dimensional English approach.

The Telegraph will hark bark to the good old days of ’66, when men were men and Bobby Moore epitomised the virtues of the English working class. The Star will feature lots of pictures of women enjoying the beaches of Rio in skimpy bikinis (something you might just see a bit of in other titles too).

Traditional media brands understand that to produce great content, you have to stand for something. And if you stand for something, that means you have to oppose some things too.

Brands find it hard to oppose things. Brand managers want to appeal to as many people as possible. But if you try to appeal to everyone, you risk appealing to no one. It takes a brave client to write a brief where the target audience actually is the target audience – even if it means excluding everyone else.

Football fans will be bombarded with information for the next six weeks. If your content calendar calls for Facebook posts wishing “Roy and the boys good luck” on the morning of England’s match days, the chances are you’re not alone. And the chances of your post cutting through the clutter are about as good as England’s chances of lifting the trophy.

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