The secret ingredient that your World Cup social media campaign is missing

According to statistics, this year 4 billion fans are going to watch the FIFA World Cup, making it the largest global sporting event. That’s right, four billions. This means great opportunities for brands to make themselves visible and massively amplify their reach. How can they use an effective marketing strategy to leverage the World Cup potential?

With millions of people engaged on social media, the hard part for brands will be the implementation of an effective marketing strategy that allows them to raise above the noise. The not-so-secret secret is to use the power of storytelling to leverage emotions. Nothing new under the sun here, many companies already have amazing campaigns whose storytelling is simply superb. Big players aside, however, it’s astonishing to see how many small and medium businesses overlook their chance to stand out by communicating only in English.

Why English is not always the answer

World Cup marketing strategy

32 teams have qualified for this World Cup. Out of these 32 countries, only 2 of them have English as their official language. This means that, if you are communicating only in English, you are leaving out 93.75% of your potential audience, possibly more if you consider also the fans whose country didn’t qualify (raising my hand over there, sigh).

I hear the objection already: but nowadays pretty much everyone understands English. Wrong. Many people may understand English to a certain extent, but during a sporting event there are psychological forces at play that completely change the game.

The Power of Emotions

Have you ever cried for a soccer game? I have, multiple times. Tears of joy, sadness, frustration, anger. I have cried myself to sleep after the Euro Championship final in 2000, when Italy lost to France during extra time. I cried a few weeks ago after Juve’s elimination from the Champions League. I shared my frustration on Twitter and blocked a bunch of people on Facebook after that game as well.

The bottom line is: sport is emotion and has no age. Soccer is emotion. Fans comment, cheer and swear in their own language during a game. Messages, comments and ads in other languages need to be processed through the brain and during a match there’s no space for brain, only heart. In emotionally charged situations, people use the language of their heart.

Multiple psychology studies have shown the so-called reduced emotional resonance of the second language. If you’ve ever studied a second language, you probably know first hand how easier it is to swear or compliment someone in a different language. That’s because we are not emotionally attached to the second language as we are to our native language. The same principle applies to marketing situations: seeing an ad in a different language takes emotion out of the decision-making process. Translated: people are less likely to buy anything that is presented to them in their second language, unless it’s something they really need. [Example: one-dollar toilet paper vs. fancy clothes or jewelry.]

marketing strategy reduced emotional resonance

Localize your message

So, the strategy that will set you apart from the crowd is your ability to localize your message into different languages. Which doesn’t mean that you have to have social media accounts and marketing materials ready in 32 languages. Maybe you focus on the European market, and exporting your product or service to Peru or South Korea is not relevant to your goals.

The key here is to study your ideal customers and their behaviour during the World Cup. Are they middle-class millennials from Europe? You may want to focus on social media in a number of European languages. Are they Asian 65-year-olds? They will probably pay more attention to what they see on TV or read on newspapers, hence the strategic need to have printed advertisement in Asian languages.
Do your research and engage with fans at the right time on the right platform in their language. Remember, fans will be your best marketing tool, because if they are enthusiastic about something, they will tell their friends and their friends will tell their friends and so on.

fan engagement World Cup football soccer marketing strategy

Translating your content

So, how does the whole translation and localization process work? Once you are clear on the languages you need and the materials you want to translate, you’re ready to build your translation team. Make sure that the people you are hiring are:
professional translators,
native speakers of the target language,
experts in your field,
– able to deliver the documents in your desired format,
– willing to work in what’s probably going to be a fast-paced setting (since timing is very important during events like the World Cup). For example, you could have translators working shifts in different time zones, to make sure to be on top of things at all times.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and are not sure where to start, download my free Guide to Finding the Perfect Translator for your project, complete with a handy printable checklist that will guide through the whole process step by step.

Additional Resources:

A great marketing analysis about the World Cup written by Snack Media can be found here.

If you want to learn more about the latest studies on reduced emotional resonance, here are some articles.


I really hope you found this post useful! If you liked it, please share it with friends and colleagues who may benefit from it.
And let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you implemented these strategies to take your business to the next level for the World Cup! I’m also accepting suggestions on which team to support this year 😉



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