The first World Cup to go viral - thanks to old and new media convergence

The best World Cup in living memory, despite the inevitable disappointment of England's early departure, beautifully showcased the convergence of "old" and "new" media, where the quality of the football was matched by the entertainment experience.

According to Fifa, the global TV audience for the previous tournament in South Africa was 3.5 billion, and this year the number is certain to be bigger (a UK record was broken for England v Uruguay, with a peak TV audience of 20 million – a 71 per cent share – tuning in), but the volcanic shift will be seen elsewhere.

Early rumours suggest that in the UK, the US and Brazil, 26 per cent of World Cup viewers watched it online, 40 per cent of Americans used their mobile phones during games and a massive ten million people downloaded the Fifa app.

Social sharing didn’t even get a footnote in Fifa’s 2010 report; this year, 88 million Facebook users interacted with the event 280 million times and more Tweets were sent than for any other sporting event (twice as many as during London 2012). #WorldCup2014 showcased the "companion" experience at scale to brands and how Twitter fuels the global conversation brilliantly for live events. During the final, the Tweet rate peaked at a mind-boggling 618 million per minute, dwarfing numbers for both the Super Bowl and the Olympics. However, it wasn’t just the scale but the invention from average punters; within seconds, app-generated parodies in jpeg and video format were pushed around celebrating or mocking events in real time.

The Snickers response to the Suárez biting incident generated nearly 50,000 retweets within minutes

The usual suspects spent big on sponsorship and showcased emotive TV commercials. What piqued my interest was the longer-form storytelling delivered digitally by the likes of McDonald’s (GOL!) and Nike ("attack of the clones"). Sponsors activated their dollars more than ever before, but the non-sponsors exploited the social conversation to reach audiences at scale, with minimal effort and investment. For instance, the Snickers response to the Luis Suárez biting incident generated nearly 50,000 retweets within minutes – a socially literate, agile brand turning organic social into a media channel of its own.

The other lesson for us all is that the giants (Spain, Brazil) can be undone by better-prepared, hungrier teams. Germany’s ability to adapt and promote young talent was a big part of their success. Think on.

Paul Frampton is the chief executive of Havas Media UK

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