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Qatar 2022: How will a Christmas World Cup affect the media landscape?

media360 panel discussion

Advertisers need to cut through the noise and use clever creative to get their brands noticed at football’s biggest international tournament

They say it’s never too early to plan for Christmas – and that’s also an important lesson for advertisers that want to be part of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, which takes place from 21 November to 18 December. 

“If you’re a brand manager and you haven’t got a plan for Qatar, then you need one before the end of the day,” said Ross Sergeant, head of media at Asahi, who was speaking as part of a panel discussion at Campaign’s Media360 event 2022. 

Due to Qatar’s intense summer heat, the World Cup will be held during the winter for the first time, which presents unique challenges for marketers competing for attention at one of the busiest times of the year. But there are also huge opportunities to connect with football fans throughout the day.

“The England team will be playing, and potentially Scotland and Wales, which is great,” said Mark Trinder, commercial partnerships and sales director at ITV. “There will be four games per day, scheduled at 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm.” 

So, what are the key dynamics of the tournament that brands need to be aware of?

Festive meets football

“It’s worth bearing in mind the whole juxtaposition of Christmas versus the World Cup,’ said Monica Majumdar, head of strategy at Wavemaker UK. “So, you have Christmas, which families are normally planning for from September – and then you have the World Cup, which is more spontaneous in terms of how fans prepare for that, so there’s going to be a battle for attention.”

Modes of advertising may also differ from a summer World Cup experience. “Because it’s winter, you’re not going to have as many people gathering around outdoor screens, and the pubs are going to be more football-heavy than Christmas-heavy,” said Majumdar.

For Asahi’s Ross Sergeant, getting football fans’ attention is also about getting more category entry points. “We are trying to get people to consider our brands for occasions they might not have previously considered. So, some of our brands like Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Asahi Super Dry are very often seen in select environments, like smart restaurants or Japanese restaurants. But our opportunity in football is really huge.”

“From a consumption perspective, it’s really exciting – what’s better than a whole bunch of people getting together and celebrating and making meaningful connections?”

But as Sergeant pointed out, spiralling transport, product and energy costs will make budgets harder to plan for the year ahead. “It’s stressful knowing that you really need to pull out the stops in a period when your budget might be at its most limited,” he says. “We have to make sure that we make a good business case to do this, and that we leverage it and we book it, and stick with it. If you don’t, it will get cut – and it will be really tragic to miss that opportunity.”

Creative opportunities

David Wilding, senior director of planning at Twitter UK, sees a winter World Cup as an opportunity for brands to get creative. “Football is the number-one thing on Twitter, but people are used to thinking about more than one thing at the same time, and I think that will be no different at Christmas,” he said. “There’s a danger we might overthink this from a consumer-behaviour perspective – we’ll have a period of escapism and joy and there will be a lot of creative opportunities, so we’re excited to see what brands do.”

Mark Trinder of ITV agreed, noting that advertisers are already thinking about their schedules during the World Cup and starting to commit. “There’s lots of opportunity for some great creative,” he added. 

However, as Majumdar pointed out, it will be important to choose the right message for the right medium when the market is cluttered at Christmas time. “Ask yourself, do you need to push for promos and offers? And does that need to be on TV, or could it be in store? I think only a few brands will be able to do the blending of Christmas and World Cup successfully,” she said. “It’s better to be truer to your brand proposition and not create too many Frankenstein monsters.”

Wilder agreed that brands who know what they are doing, and what they stand for, will do well. “Consumers are simply saying ‘entertain me and give me great offers and behind the scenes access’. With four games every day for two weeks, brands should embrace it, get in and see what happens.

“It’s going to be a big, fun football festival,” he added. “Just be optimistic and enjoy it.”

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