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Engage key audiences for the biggest soccer event

A group of people at a bar watching a soccer match celebrates by raising their glasses

The major sporting event all marketers should care about and prepare for

North American summer wasn’t even over this year and there was already media coverage about TV spots for the American football championship game being sold out. While many of us love watching the commercials during that game, which is often considered the most important event in the advertising industry, it’s surprising how little attention international soccer gets when considering its scale and global cultural significance.

To put things into perspective, Tom Brady—a football player who is lauded by many as the greatest of all time (#GOAT)—has around 13M followers on Instagram as of September 26, while soccer superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have 362M and 483M followers, respectively. If advertising is about connecting with audiences, there’s little doubt that the most important event is happening later this year in Qatar, where a nation will be crowned the world’s soccer champion.

Whether you call it soccer or football (like I and most of the world do), the impact of this mega-event on our industry can’t be overstated. What used to be an opportunity for the event’s official sponsors has become an opportunity for any brand of any size on any continent. And the fact that this year’s biggest global football event will overlap and compete for attention with the holiday shopping season makes understanding seasonal consumer trends and having a strategy that's optimized for the tournament a must.

The challenges for brands

Unlike the American football championship, for which all the excitement is concentrated around one game, the tournament in Qatar will consist of 64 matches over 27 days, so fans will need to keep up with the event while they carry on with work and life. Across the world, 40% of the matches are scheduled during working hours. For example, on the US East Coast, most matches will happen between 8 am and 4 pm, while in Europe matches are mostly between 10 am and 5 pm. The blending of watching, working, and living poses a challenge for brands to engage with audiences, as fans will likely be checking game scores and highlights between emails and meetings.

We expect many viewers to use their PCs to work on their Excel spreadsheets or attend Teams calls on one screen while watching the matches on a secondary monitor. In the US, 41% said they’ll watch matches on their PCs, and in India it’s a whopping 49%! This makes the PC the screen of choice for many soccer fans and a prime place to show your ads.

Microsoft Bing sports schedule widget: Match times (Eastern Time) on Black Friday.

Not only does the length of the tournament pose challenges for advertisers, so does the timing. The scorching climate in Qatar has shifted the event from Northern Hemisphere summer to fall, which coincides with the peak of the holiday shopping season for the first time. In fact, in one of the most anticipated matches, the US will play against England on Black Friday. Driving purchases and audience engagement amidst these major attention-catching forces will require creative thinking from media planners and buyers everywhere.

Luckily, Microsoft has been investing in solutions to address these types of challenges.

Microsoft has entered the Sports arena

Microsoft has been expanding its efforts around Sports and eSports, and one way of doing this is integrating content between Windows and the news hub in Microsoft Start. The integration with the Microsoft ecosystem makes the millions of Edge browser users 283% more likely to visit MSN Sports than other sports publishers. This natural flow from the desktop experience to the content that people love also helps brands reach a broader and unique set of sports fans: 73% of people who visit MSN Sports and 75% of people who visit CBS Sports don’t visit ESPN.com. And this unique audience has high buying power. For example, 53% of the audience in the US earns more than $100,000 per household.

With such a valuable audience, Microsoft is doubling down on our experience investments in Windows and Microsoft Start to build the best experience for soccer fans of any league, and this experience will debut ahead of the tournament in Qatar! With strong entry points on desktop computers, Microsoft is uniquely positioned to help brands connect with fans across work and life throughout the long event.

Navigating a saturated media marketplace during the world’s largest soccer event

When there’s economic uncertainty with associated pressure for results, many marketers turn to the reliability of search and other performance campaigns, but that may not be enough during a shopping season that’s competing for attention with the biggest sports event on Earth. Brands need to think full-funnel, and Microsoft’s audience intelligence, which is rich with strong search intent signals, can address brands’ need to stand out during the event and generate sales at the same time throughout the holiday shopping season.

Microsoft Audience Network image ad.

You can leverage high-impact image and Video Ads, which carry strong search intent and contribute to performance and synergies with search campaigns, across the Microsoft Audience Network. This is key to moving customers down the sales funnel quickly and earning conversions when and where they’re occurring. In many geos, the Microsoft Audience Network and Microsoft Search Network also have In-market Audiences available, which can help you reach people who are ready to buy your types of products, regardless of whether they’re watching the tournament, shopping for gifts, working, or doing all at once.

Get ready for kick-off!

The new experiences tailored to the sporting event will start launching on Windows 10, Windows 11, Microsoft Start, and Microsoft Bing later in October as we approach the opening match on November 20. Coaches are finalizing their strategies, finalizing their plans, and locking on their final rosters, which will start turning eyeballs and conversations to the tournament.

Do you have your strategy ready for this major, unique marketing moment? Contact your account team, reach out, or sign up today, so we can work together to help you score big and come out as a winner after the final whistle.

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