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Reach Your Goaaaaaaallllls: 5 Tips to Build a Winning World Cup Marketing Plan

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is just around the corner, and marketers, we need to talk: traditional marketing ideas aren't going to cut it this time. To come out of this World Cup victorious, you must employ a more thoughtful marketing approach and move on from that good old spray and pray. What should you focus on before, during, and after the tournament? We reveal. 

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Folks don’t look now; the FIFA World Cup is (almost) here again. The world’s population is basically split right down the middle on this one. The first group is ecstatic at the prospect of just under a month of great soccer festival, non-stop matches, commentaries, stats, and perhaps even bets. The second group is distraught at the exact same prospect. Let the battle for the remote commence.  

But we want to discuss a third group: marketers. Just like each of the 32 national teams participating in the tournament (Nov 21 – Dec 18), marketers too need a strategy to win. Unlike national teams, though, an on-pitch strategy isn’t enough: marketers must split theirs into three phases – pre-World Cup, during the tournament, and finally, one to follow. Past big events generated double the revenue compared to regular off-season events, so naturally, the mega event of the soccer world represents a considerable opportunity no matter who you are. 

Watch this space for more World Cup insights 

This post will certainly not be our only dive into World Cup-related strategies. Over the following weeks and months leading up to the event, we’ll discuss how to handle various segments of players like new, reactivated, churned, and others. We’ll look into the numbers, show you the expected behavior of players from various countries, and more. We’ll also touch on ways to maximize your marketing activities by using mobile and email channels.  

Our first tip? Subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page, so you don’t miss any of it. 

Why should you listen to us though? Well, Stake followed the below principles in the last Euro tournament, and this is what it got them. You can read more about their case study here.  

The challenges this unique World Cup poses 

Firstly, the coming World Cup will be held in Qatar (Time zone is +3 GMT), the first in the Middle East and Arab World. It will span just 28 days rather than the usual month. But the main challenge is probably that it will be held in November, essentially disrupting national leagues. On the other hand, this mitigates the usual post-World Cup lull turning a challenge into an opportunity. 

As a first step, your marketing plan should consider the following basic assumptions: 

  • Expect to see a more extensive, more casual player base during the tournament 
  • Many new and reactivating players will be available for acquisition 
  • A sizeable chunk of the player base will churn after the tournament 
  • Most of these players will only wager on their national team 
An overview of your plan 

So, let’s get right to it, shall we? 

Before the World Cup   

Build your player base - Bottom line? New and reactivated players are the ones you should be focusing on at this stage.  

To acquire new high lifetime value players, identify your best-performing existing ones and reverse-engineer their acquisition. Here is an old blog we wrote on the subject.  

Several points to keep in mind: 

  • Focus on acquiring the most significant piece of the pie possible of these players who often become available during mega-events before the tournament. While those are casual players and of lower value, the more of those you gather, the better your odds of nurturing them into high-value players.  
  • Don’t stop acquiring new players and build reactivation plans based on past bettor behavior to bring back as many players as possible.  
  • Reactivated players will probably consist of previous big events’ unnurtured casual players or, when the World Cup is held during summertime, those whose national leagues have finished their season long before the tournament. Similar to new players, there will be a deep pool of potentially reactivated players, representing an excellent opportunity to nurture them back to activity.  
  • In years without a big sporting event, you’ll mostly find the player type breakdown (see pie chart below) skewed more in the Active Players’ direction. So, this puts the focus heavily on reactivated and new players.  
  • Remember: during special events, VIP players spend more (5X), bet more (4X), and deposit more often (2X)   


Big Event players split 

Set yourself up for success - Build your calendar starting with all matches and match times while marking your important events. Analyze and segment your audience into differentiated groups: Non-Depositors, New one-time depositors, New multi-time depositors, Active with High Risk of Churn, Live bettors vs. non-live bettors, Mobile bettors vs. non-mobile ones.  

Example of big event calendar 

During the World Cup   

Increase Engagement – Optimize each message by leveraging personalized content, creating a sense of urgency, using dynamic content in multichannel campaigns, incorporating educational content, and driving special World Cup loyalty programs and gamified campaigns.  

Gain more from active players – Did you know that the probability of a player placing a bet on his own national team’s match is +40% higher than an average match played during the group stage? That alone should affect some of your marketing activities. For example, if Spain plays England, invest more in betting promotions for that match in the rivalling countries, rather than just anywhere.

Some key points to remember: 

  • What happens when inevitably one of those teams loses and is eliminated? To avoid a dip in activity, try to find “adoptive team programs” to anchor your marketing plan (the same goes for non-participating countries).  
  • Consider using gamification to help you achieve this goal; for example – bet on all of your national team matches and get a free bet in the final (that gives you all the stages leading up to the Final with their attention). Look at logins and email openings to measure how engaged those players are. 
  • Our data shows that new players placing the 2nd bet are twice as likely to be retained than those placing just one, and retention likelihood goes up the more active those players become. In the past, we’ve discussed in-depth how to convert one-timers
  • National teams that showcase international superstars from the big teams will also see an increase in betting activity. Remember, people tend to have an attachment to their club players; if you know which team they support, that can help you engage them. 

In the table below, you can see the neighboring countries tend to stick together; for example, the Spaniards are 62% likely to bet on their national team, but in their absence, they’ll probably bet on Portugal.  

Example of European betting preferences by country 

After the World Cup   

Retain players – Most bettors activated during the World Cup will Churn. Historically, new players acquired during sporting events have a 25% lower retention rate. Chances are your casual players won’t be terribly interested in betting on other events, so try to tie the tournament they just watched into bets on their national leagues. For example, the gap between the World Cup final and the resumption of the English Premier League is just eight days; take advantage of this fact and try to link the events. For countries with longer breaks, try to find “surrogate events” to keep the momentum going. Incentivize deposits immediately for 0 balance users and those who have made a withdrawal and offer early preferential rates on bets made towards the resumption of other sports.   

You do not want to miss out on peak events 

Look, we know a thing or two about Peak Events. We have two World Cups and two Euro tournaments under our belt, not to mention almost a decade of retail-related events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and others. The plan we laid out above is a result of hundreds of millions of players and deep analysis of that behavior. That huge mountain of data tells us that – retention rather than acquisition should be on your mind and you should be mindful of quick post tournament churn. It also tells us that when you get your marketing plan right, you’ll reap massive rewards. 

About four months before the November 21 opening match at the Al Thumama Stadium when Senegal will take on the Netherlands, there’s still time to tweak your marketing plan for each phase and lifecycle stage. And remember, this is just the first of many World-Cup related posts we have in store. Stay tuned, or better yet, subscribe to our newsletter below. 

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Guy Leshno

Guy Leshno, a seasoned PR and Communications professional, with a successful track record in leading PR strategies and projects in emerging startups. With over a decade of experience, his expertise lies in blending creative ideation, analytics, and expert writing capabilities, driving brand awareness, and improving sales.

Jonathan Collins

Jonathan Collins is a Senior Data Insights Consultant at Optimove.