June 24, 2018,   2:24 PM

How Mobile App Advertisers Can Win The FIFA World Cup 2018 In The Middle East

Inbal Lavi


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Betting pools, watch parties, and revelry in the streets: Yes, the quadrennial World Cup has arrived once again.

An estimated 3.5 billion people – a little less than half the entire world population – will watch the 2018 World Cup, according to the media agency Zenith. With a captive audience that vast, soccer’s premier event represents a ripe opportunity for advertisers, and Zenith projects that the World Cup will drive a $2.4 billion increase in ad spending worldwide. As mobile becomes increasingly integral to fans’ World Cup experience, in-app advertising is slated for a surge in spending – and, if done right, user conversions.

Among the most target-rich environments for the mobile ad industry is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which boasts its biggest World Cup presence yet at this year’s event in Russia with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia advancing to the group stages. What’s more, residents of countries in the region display sharply higher levels of interest in soccer compared to the rest of the world. Nielsen finds that 74% of Saudi Arabians, 69% of Egyptians, and 60% each of Qataris and Emiratis say they’re interested in the sport, far above the global average of 46%.

Here’s what mobile advertisers should keep in mind as they look to capitalize on the region’s World Cup mania.

The World Cup of Mobile

Since the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the world has become even more wired – and increasingly mobile-centric.  While global Internet penetration was only 42.3% four years ago, it now stands at 54.5%, according to data compiled by App Annie. And while 70% of World Cup content was consumed on desktop in 2014, mobile now accounts for 73% of Internet consumption, the firm notes.

Mobile’s importance is no less evident in the MENA region, where it is becoming a core part of the soccer experience. According to a user survey, 74% of Saudi Arabians use their mobile devices while watching soccer games, and 55% are active on their phones while watching from a stadium.

Broader survey data offers a look at how fans spend their time on mobile during major sporting events: 30% of users say they use their phones to stream games, while 80% look up player information and replay key moments from their mobile devices. Nearly a quarter of prospective World Cup viewers say that their mobile phones will serve as their main gateway to supplemental information about the tournament. This trend toward “second screening” underscores why mobile advertisers are seeking to get in on the action.

Campaigns That Score

Beyond livestreaming, sports, and gaming apps, several core app categories are poised for success during the World Cup. Takeaway orders increase by an average of 20 to 30% during major sporting events, delivering a boon to food delivery apps. Ecommerce will also benefit, as the World Cup viewing experience often inspires fan shopping sprees. Sony, for instance, forecasts a 20% increase in sales around the tournament.

Among Webpals Inc. partners, we have observed a doubling in ad budgets, with average conversion rates for mobile apps from MENA spiking 300%. Our data also demonstrates that traffic to apps peaks on hour before a game, and during games as well, which helps explain skyrocketing bid costs.

Because so much of the World Cup’s viewership comes from mobile, all mobile-driven brands – apps for food delivery, shopping, sports, and ridesharing – enjoy unique opportunities during the event. To make the most of them, here are a few tips for designing a winning campaign:

Get Local. The World Cup may have a massive global audience, but ad campaigns still require local planning. It’s vital for advertisers to develop programmatic methods for targeting core audiences, like those in MENA, according the time zones and geography. Pay special attention to your location-based reach using Geofencing; capturing the moment of content consumption is essential for smart marketers.

Stay Relevant. Your ads must be relevant to both the individual consumer and the unique nature of the World Cup. Be a resource to fans by keeping them alert of when games are on, scores, and player/team stats. Audiences are overloaded with ads, but fans in MENA will be more responsive to a campaign that, say, highlights Mohamed Salah’s return from his injury.

Target Women. They’re most likely to be available for conversions during actual game hours, so ecommerce should plan accordingly. In this case, bids will be lower, because the audience segment and filters are broader.

High Costs = High Results. Of course, high costs are unavoidable – but the potential payoff is tremendous. With the right forward-thinking strategy, mobile marketers can retain app users – and retention will be cheaper in the long run.

Audiences may only get the chance to be riveted by the World Cup every four years. But the right strategic approach can ensure that your brand reaps the rewards long after the champions have gone home.

Inbal Lavi is the CEO of Webpals Inc.

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