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Partner Content: The upcoming FiFA World Cup gives marketers in MENA an incredible once-in-every-four-years opportunity.

Excitement and interest growing in Russia, as the country prepares for the first time the FIFA World Cup will be held in Eastern Europe.

In just a few weeks, the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ kicks-off; with football fans around the world (regardless of nationality, age, or gender) will be uniting around screens (big and small) to watch their favorite teams compete in the ultimate football tournament. Nielsen Sport’s research shows that excitement and interest are growing in Russia, as the country prepares for its biggest football event yet (the first time the FIFA World Cup™ is being held in Eastern Europe).

FIFA’s official reports include global viewing figures, which indicate that total viewing to the event gets bigger and bigger with every new tournament. The 2014 tournament in Brazil smashed all records for at-home TV viewing. Football, and specifically the FIFA World Cup™, crosses all boundaries for bringing family and friends together in a shared passion, regardless of who individuals are supporting. Passion, laughter, immense joy, screams, tears, devastation – these are the emotions felt during those 4 weeks, as fans watch their national teams take to the field for a chance to perform, score, and win glory and fame on the global stage.

The upcoming FIFA World Cup gives marketers in MENA an incredible only-once-in-every-4 year’s opportunity. 

For this upcoming tournament, fans around MENA will be glued to their screens (and thankfully in a more reasonable time zone for us than the 2014 FIFA World Cup™).  With Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Tunisia making it through to the Group Stages, there is more reason for us than ever to tune in and cheer on loudly.   And of course all this excitement, this passion for the game, our desire to be with fellow team supporters and our friends/family as we go on the journey with our team, gives marketers an incredible only-once-every-4 year’s opportunity.

Choueiri Group, in partnership with Nielsen, conducted a study in KSA to dig deeper into anticipated viewing behaviors and category intentions

Much information is available globally from official and none-official sources on the importance of World Cup tournaments to key categories and brands and on the amount of advertising dollars directed towards this captive audience (the fans). The same applies to information on how best to engage and delight audiences with creative messaging – I wonder how many specific World Cup ads have been media award winners over the years?  Many I suspect. As marketers, we spend a lot of time, money and effort to ensure that our brand is at the beating heart of the football fans’ purchase cycle and is top of mind as they plan their viewing occasions.  Little information has previously been available for the MENA region though, which is why Choueiri Group, in partnership with Nielsen, conducted a study in KSA to dig deeper into anticipated viewing behaviors and category intentions, in relation to the upcoming football World Cup in Russia. This was aimed at enabling marketers to start considering and building their plans now to reach and engage this audience.

Identifying the Audience: Hardcore Fans vs. Tourist Fans

In the region, GCC countries in particular have not been regarded as having the most devout football fans in large numbers. This led us to determine if a significant audience for marketers even existed.

From the study, there are two distinctly different segments, which it makes sense for us to look at in closer detail: ‘Hardcore’ fans who intend to watch every game and ‘Tourist’ fans who will watch a few games. The behaviors they exhibit will likely require varied marketing strategies, in order to engage them.  There also exists a clear gender separation here – almost three-quarters of men are hardcore fans, whilst the ‘tourist’ viewers are predominantly female.

The ‘tourist’ fans are also more likely to be watching their national team, vs. all content regardless of team for the ‘hardcore fans’.

Where the viewing takes place is an important element in communicating to the right category.

At-home viewing and viewing with friends are core factors for the ‘hardcore’ fans, and for many, the importance the individual places on the game they are viewing dictates their place of viewing. For games considered to be very important (in MENA these are most likely to be national or regional teams), there is a tendency to watch matches out-of-home, whereas for mid or lower importance games, there is a tendency to watch in-home (although it is important to note that in-home viewing is highest for all games regardless of importance).

Audience Behavior – How do they act and consume this tournament?

Some catch-up behavior by these audiences has also been identified. Games which are missed, are rarely recorded.  For live matches that are missed, they will be following-up as quickly as they can online through fan forums, via social media, and through TV round-up summary programs.

In addition, interesting behavior exists around social media as well, that is different to what we see for many other live entertainment shows. There is almost universal usage of social media and sports websites from the ‘hardcore’ fans before a game, but during a game, this drops off to a large degree. While the match is playing, they are focused solely on the game on whichever screen they are watching it on and of course, the volume of fans following up post-match through analysis programming and sports sites is large.  Understanding this flow of World Cup consumption and active engagement in content, starts to help marketers to see how they can best integrate marketing campaigns across platforms and devices, as well as how they can tailor creative messaging to the moment.


So what Categories should we be planning for?

Of course, there are some obvious ones. With so much in-home viewing by groups of people, food and beverages were always going to be high on the agenda. Hence, we see the world’s biggest F&B advertisers focusing their efforts on all FIFA World Cup™ tournaments.  Nielsen’s Retail Measurement data shows that around the world consumption of F&B in the snack categories grows significantly, while FMCG brands ensure they are on the table with a range of in-store promotions. Choueiri Group’s own research also shows the same – with highly anticipated consumption of hot and cold drinks, popcorn, nuts and other snacks.


Even fast food and delivery restaurants should be targeting this audience, as two-fifths of viewers are ordering in food as well – fast, traditional, and fried foods, Italian, burgers…food is definitely as much of a core category in MENA for World Cup viewing as anywhere else.  In addition, many people told us that they order online, especially when at someone else’s house to watch the game.

A less obvious category for this audience is technology and devices and this is a category that marketers should be thinking about NOW as our survey respondents stated that their purchase cycle for these items starts 2-3 months before the tournament.  Over a quarter of viewers intend to buy a new TV (for a bigger screen, for better in-home viewing, to take advantage of promo offers specifically offered at this time); and 13% will even buy a new smartphone for the World Cup (so they can watch content out-of-home, and stay updated with team news). Even games consoles feature as a new purchase for World Cup viewing purposes.

 “Yes! My team won – great goals! The next match doesn’t start for another hour….”

What will respondents be doing in-between matches?  Most of our male fans went online to surf the internet, presumably to see what the post-match commentators were saying, and even our women respondents were more likely to be going online than any other activity.  A third took some time away from football to watch other movies and TV series.  These all add up to plenty more occasions for marketers to keep-up their World Cup messaging – or give people a few moments to get away from it all.

There is no doubt the FIFA World Cup™ offers a tremendous marketing opportunity for relevant brands and appropriate content, and never more than in this region for this tournament.

Know where your audience is going to be, the range of offline and online platforms that you can be seen on, how creative messaging flows through your campaign across platforms to drive interest, engagement and purchase. Most importantly, cheer on your team loudly and proudly!

Source: Choueiri Group online research, KSA: total sample 5,300 respondents (4,500 males, 800 females)

Choueiri Group research in partnership with Nielsen.