Why World Cup Soccer Ads Don't Get Skipped

I don’t think the 30-second TV spot is dead.  For frequent readers of this blog, this may come as a surprise, considering how often I tend to rail against it is an outdated, expensive, and questionably effective form of advertising.  In the vast majority of cases, this is still true.  But in the midst of the soccer World Cup, I am again reminded of how sports marketing is a completely different industry when it comes to the potential power of the TV spot.  To be clear, I am not suggesting that every ad shown during the World Cup will work – but there are a number of things that make television advertising during sports (and the World Cup in particular) a tactic that could work very well in reaching a target audience.  Here are the top reasons why TV sports programming may offer the only safe haven in the near future for television advertising:

  1. Sports don’t get Tivo-ed as often. Really, the only sports fans who watch a taped game are the ones who have to because they couldn’t catch the game live.  If given a choice, most sports fans will only watch a game live because it’s not the same on time delay.  Obviously, if you watch live, you’re stuck with the ads.  It is like the old days of TV, before the DVR.
  2. Sports fans watch sports ads.  When the "Impossible is Nothing" ads from Adidas come on TV, I stop what I’m doing and watch.  And I’ve seen them 20 times.  It is the same story with the Gatorade "It’s a Whole New BallGame" spots about the US team’s journey to the World Cup.  Both evoke the emotion of the game with very watchable stories that soccer fans would love.  And here I am talking about and writing about them.  During the last world cup, it was the same with the Nike "The Cage" spots.
  3. Ads actually sell a relevant product.  If someone watches "Lost" – what kind of products would they buy?  This is impossible to know – and it represents the core problem with most TV media buys: they are guessing on relevance and often missing the mark.  Sports advertising has a baseline … people watching the World Cup like soccer and often play soccer.  So advertising Adidas or Gatorade makes sense.
  4. Advertising is anticipated and watched as entertainment.  The Super Bowl is the most extreme example of this, with ad parties springing up where people talk during the game, and observe a nearly religious silence during the ads.  During the World Cup, the resurgence of ads that focus on soccer is refreshing.  As latent soccer fans find their lost love of the game, the ads tap into this emotion as much as the action on the field.

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