Inside Fox Sports’ massive World Cup marketing campaign

Fox Sports has embarked on its biggest marketing campaign in network history ahead of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off on Sunday.

The company has begun a series of activations across the country, many of which will continue throughout the duration of the tournament.

This year is the first time in World Cup history that the tournament will take place in the fall, instead of the normal summer slot. The move to an already jam-packed sports list creates a unique challenge for the broadcaster and has led to the creation of the ‘Tis the FIFA World Cup’ marketing campaign.

“Early on, when you start strategizing, from a broad network and far-reaching perspective, you can’t really sell a soccer tournament. It will appeal to more soccer fans, but for something of the nature of the World Cup, you have to sell something broader than a soccer tournament,” said Robert Gottlieb, who was recently promoted to president, marketing at Fox Sports.

That’s the aim of the campaign, which launched in July with a spot starring Jon Hamm as Santa Claus. Two subsequent commercials, featuring Tom Brady, Mariah Carey, the US Men’s National Team, Ellie Kemper, and more, launched throughout the fall.

In addition to traditional media buys across broadcast, print, online and social, Fox Sports is putting more dollars than usual on external marketing, which Gottlieb attributed to the timing of many of the key games.

TV is where we can get scale for that activation and messaging

Robert Gottlieb, Fox Sports

Custom themed OOH posters will be strategically placed, acknowledging that many people will not be home during matches.

“Probably the most strategic change in buying traditional media is the time zone issue,” Gottlieb said. “[People] they’re about to be in the office, they’re going about their lives. We split up in a way we usually wouldn’t on outdoor digital kiosks in major cities.

In NYC there will be live kiosks in real time showing the game is currently in progress with game clock, score and a call to download the app and watch live.

Scaling experiences

Outside of traditional media, Fox Sports is running a variety of campaigns across the country, with activations aiming to scale and grow audiences.

“Our media budgets aren’t what a giant multiglobal brand would be,” Gottlieb said. “We really need to squeeze demonstrable value out of everything we do. If we can build something that’s inherently very visual, we can make it something that can go on TV and TV is where we can get scale for that activation and messaging.

For the first time, the network will have a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade World Cup themed balloon named Striker, the US soccer star.

NBC holds the broadcast rights to the parade — and also the Spanish-language U.S. broadcast, which will be on Telemundo and Peacock — but the two companies have teamed up to get Striker involved in the celebration.

“It was a tenuous discussion because obviously the parade is televised on NBC and closely aligned with NBC and that company,” Gottlieb said. “We have a great working relationship with NBC. We share so many properties.

Fox Sports is installing World Cup snowballs in various cities across the United States, also with plans to grow in scale.

The first snowglobes appeared during Game 6 of the World Series earlier this month and will appear at the Chiefs vs. Chargers, as well as the Seattle Space Needle. Fans can also view the globes at the Cowboys, Michigan Thanksgiving Day game at Ohio State on November 26, and at Pac-12 and B1G championship games in December, as well as many other locations.

“By virtue of a snowball falling outside a college football game, you’ll hit 50,000 people on location, but then you can include it in the broadcast and get two million more people,” Gottlieb said.

“Activation becomes something that scales. TV is probably the largest button and the easiest to scale,” she added, noting that it’s hard to rely on something going viral on Instagram, Twitter or TikTok.

Influencers will promote the World Cup by wearing personalized “ugly” Christmas sweaters, leaning into the holiday theme.

In another effort to attract casual fans, Fox Sports will host watch parties of key games in New York City’s Times Square and Port Authority.

“There is a huge amount of commuters that pass through the Harbor Master’s Office twice a day, so that we can have an activation [there] it’s going to really help, like ‘oh, the game is on’ and then hopefully they’ll get on the phone as soon as they get to the office and look at the rest,” Gottlieb said.

There will also be a partnership with betting game Fox Super 6 for a $1 million challenge – the first time Fox has been able to use Super 6 with the Men’s World Cup.

“This is a good way to introduce the Super 6 branding into our World Cup effort,” Gottlieb said, adding that it’s another entry point for the casual fan.

What about advertising?

Fox Sports has not yet provided an update on the amount of advertising space remaining in the World Cup.

Telemundo previously announced that its World Cup ad sales hit “record revenue” before kickoff, with only a handful of units remaining.

And in Qatar, FIFA made a U-turn this morning two days before the start of the tournament, announcing that alcoholic beer will not be sold within the perimeter of the eight stadiums of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. This could be a problem for sponsor Budweiser, which has a $75 million endorsement deal.

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