The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off next month and as soccer fans worldwide are busy following their teams and predicting the next World Champion, brands are even busier putting the finishing touches on their campaigns. The World Cup provides brands with a platform for exposure on a massive, worldwide scale: 32 nations participate and the sport boasts billions of fans, who will likely live and breathe soccer (or football, as the world calls it) for the four-week duration of the event. For official event sponsors, millions of dollars are at stake. FIFA is reported to generate $1.4 billion in sponsorship revenue from 22 companies. Six of them – Adidas, Coca Cola, Sony, Visa, Hyundai/ KIA Motors and Emirates – will spend a total $730 million to become FIFA Partners, the top-tier sponsorship level. But an official FIFA sponsorship isn’t the only way to gain brand exposure at the World Cup. Nike – a direct Adidas competitor in the sportswear industry and the official outfitter of 10 national soccer teams, including Brazil, England, and the United States – is not an official FIFA World Cup sponsor, yet its social media campaign is grabbing the attention of soccer fans worldwide. Nike launched its Risk Everything campaign on YouTube and has since spilled it over to Twitter, Instagram and other social media. Nike’s Risk Everything is a showcase of using the popularity of a sporting event to promote your brand with a visual content campaign, without incurring the hefty price tag of official sponsorship. Here’s how they did it:
YouTube: The power of viral marketing videos
This one-minute video is the first of many in this campaign that never uses the words “World Cup,” but references enough soccer stars and culture that its message is apparent. The video leads viewers to a Nike-owned website that encourages fans to create, hashtag and share their own sports videos for a chance to score a featured spot on the site. It’s a smart move for a fan base that thrives on competition and worships its star players. As the World Cup draws closer, Nike has continued adding videos to its football channel, each with a nod to the event without alluding it outright.
Twitter: Powerful visuals & hashtag heaven
Nike brings the World Cup theme over to its Twitter account, @nikesoccer, where followers can check out stills from Risk Everything videos and keep track of its related hashtag. Once again, the Cup isn’t overtly mentioned but the correlation is unmistakable when #RiskEverything and #usmnt hashtags are paired with images like this one:
— Nike Soccer (@nikesoccer) May 24, 2014
Facebook: Consistent branding & message
Nike’s Facebook page pulls in a little bit of everything from its other social channels. Videos and images of popular soccer stars are sprinkled throughout the page alongside pictures of cleats and pickup games at local parks. Ever consistent in both branding and message, Nike manages to unmistakably reference the World Cup while never using the exact words. Still, the goal is clear: to associate Nike with the biggest soccer event of the summer.
Vine: With micro-videos, stars charm the fans
Nike fans over at Vine can glimpse micro-videos of soccer favorites like Neymar Jr mugging for the camera or Mario Götze playing with a soccer ball that turns into a cleat. Nike changes things up a bit on this social media channel by including the #magista tag. Here, viewers are encouraged to post Vines of Nike’s line of soccer cleats. Again, no mention of the World Cup but, in keeping with the soccer theme, videos of footballers scheduled to play in the event drive home the point quite well anyway.
Instagram: It’s all about the spontaneity
Similar to its YouTube channel, Nike asks its Instagram fans to upload and tag their best football moments caught on film for a shot at getting featured on the company’s website. The photos on this channel are far more candid and spontaneous than the structured pictures on the company’s other channels, but still evoke images of competition and huge sporting events. You know, like the World Cup.
The full impact of Nike’s social campaign won’t be fully understood until the post-event numbers are crunched, but it’s clear the company is onto something. The first video in the “Risk Everything” campaign went viral almost immediately. According to video ad and analytics firm Visible Measures, “in only two weeks’ time, the video racked up over 8.7 million views, and spawned 26 copies.” It’s been clear for a while now that social media – with the help of carefully planned visual content campaigns – is shaking up traditional methods of advertising and marketing. If Nike’s way of getting around the constraints and costs of traditional sponsorships through the use of social channels continues to be a success, that’s sure to make sporting event organizers break into a sweat.