In the United States, the search for the Super Bowl spikes every January, so Americans could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking it was the biggest sporting event for “soccer fans.”
But worldwide, “soccer fans” are what Americans might call “soccer fans,” and search interest for the “World Cup” is seven to eight times as great as for the “Super Bowl.”
Search interest for “World Cup” typically peaks in June every four years.
But the FIFA World Cup in Qatar kicks off on November 20, 2022 and will take place until December 18.
The unusual shift from its normal setting is depicted in the YouTube video, “FIFA Men’s World Cup 2022: Jon Hamm as Santa Claus cuts short his vacation | FOX SOCCER.”
So, with the world’s biggest sporting event just around the corner, US digital marketers may need to juggle their holiday plans to take advantage of the biggest marketing opportunity for global brands.
And the demographic that many marketers struggle to reach is still Generation Z.
According to a recent survey Emory UniversityJust 23% Generation Z claim to be avid sports fans.
In light of this, brands are looking for ways to satiate the younger generation’s appetite for immersive, community-driven experiences.
Brands like Coca-Cola, Adidas and US Soccer are ramping up their promotional efforts targeting youth audiences.
So, with the World Cup looming, how should other global brands use digital marketing to engage Gen Z during this year’s holiday shopping season?
To answer this question, I conducted an interview Kevin Kim, CEO and co-founder of Stadium Live Studios, and expert in gaming and sports marketing strategy. He has worked closely on products geared towards the way Gen Z consumes media.
and Stadium Live, a digital stadium that has energized sports fans, recently received investments from NBA star Kevin Durant, French soccer player Blaise Matuidi, and Dabur Labs Ventures.
Here are my questions about the advertising trends and brand strategies behind Gen Z targeting, Kim’s answers, which provide real-world insights from conversations he had with his team on exactly this topic.
Greg Garboe: “Brands Struggling to Reach Younger Audiences – Is Sports Marketing Not the Way to Go Anymore?”
Kevin Kim: “A big part of reaching younger audiences is making sure you’re on the platforms that they’re on. Traditional sports marketing focuses on getting brands on screen during a game, but what we’re seeing is younger audiences, Gen Z in particular, They are spending less time actually watching the games and instead consuming sports through short-form media such as TikTok and Instagram.
This is not to say that traditional sports marketing is still a viable way to attract a Gen Z audience, because many still watch the games. But unless your brand is visible on the platforms where your sports clips and content are shared, you won’t get as much attention on it, and your brand won’t get the same awareness as others on those platforms.
Modern sports marketing to Gen Z is not only on screen, but also on social media and other sports platforms. Marketing as a whole is shifting towards social, but the experiences brands create need to be authentic and relevant to Gen Z; Otherwise, much of it is lost. Gen Z is really good at spotting fake brands who do this for their image versus those who are really looking to connect with their fans.
At Stadium Live, we’re building a sports and cultural platform where brands can interact with Gen Z sports fans in a truly original way by integrating their brands into branded, in-product experiences.
Brands seeking sponsorship in sports need to look at where their fans really spend their time and allocate resources there. Putting ads in sports matches on screen is no longer a complete diversion.”
GJ: “Why are Gen Z sports fans so hungry for immersive experiences?”
K: “Generation Z sports fans are not just sports fans anymore. They see the athletes they follow show interest in other aspects of culture such as art, music and fashion, and that influences their tastes. Athletes are now more than just athletes; they are celebrities and tastemakers.”
The immersive experiences of Gen Z pull more than one (sports) heartstring. Truly immersive experiences appeal to a core interest like sports, but pepper other interests like gaming, fashion, etc. to create a package where Gen Z feels like they belong. People love seeing themselves represented in your product, and it forms the basis for a really strong emotional relationship between brand and customer.
Stadium Live is doing a lot of that now and we think it’s one of the primary reasons Gen Z has clung to the platform as much as they have. I can be a sports fanatic but I also love animation; These two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
We cater to a fan base that has seen many brands in the sports world treat them like sports fans mean… all you care about is sports. One of our cornerstones as a company is “Be Who You Want To Be,” which means that anyone entering the platform should be able to wear what they want and express their interests the way they want while still being wrapped under the esports umbrella.
I can show my love to [a musical artist] Or the love of haute couture right on the catwalk and that helps many Gen Z fans feel a sense of belonging. We see a lot of people on the platform already creating small communities with their niche interests and that keeps them coming back. Finding your own individual community at Stadium Live is a key part of our success and we see it as something we will continue to build on.
GJ: “The FIFA video game has become an essential part of football culture and a huge attraction for Gen Z. How can game adoption help marketers increase the return on investment (ROI) associated with their advertising?”
K: “A big part of Gen Z’s affinity for video games stems from the need for communication and community tied to their interests. Fans are looking for a multi-channel experience with brands. Video games like FIFA, NBA 2K, Madden, etc. build on the experiences fans have in life realism by educating them and making them deeper fans.
The more players I know about football, basketball, etc., and the more stats I know about sports, the more likely I am to stick to watching a game or get involved with a brand. Fortnite, in particular, has been great at showcasing this through branded skins and in-game experiences.
We believe that video games for Gen Z play as big a role as traditional marketing, because as mentioned above, real, authentic experiences drive engagement and brand loyalty. And for a digitally native like Gen Z, there’s no better way to create an immersive experience than in a place they’re already familiar with.
Creating an immersive experience for your brand within a video game can create a lasting impression and connection that usually requires dozens of individual touchpoints beforehand. If we think about the amount of time Gen Z spends per week playing video games (more than 7 hours per week), it makes perfect sense for your brand to be somewhere your audience hangs out.
If they spend time on social media And video games, you need to market through social media and create immersive experiences for your brand within video games.”
Giga J: “While some may think World Cup ads are crucial for major brands to participate in, they may not actually be worth it — why?”
KAs I mentioned above, a big trend we’re seeing with younger audiences is that they’re not spending as much time watching sports in front of a screen as previous generations; instead, they’re spending a lot of time on things like TikTok and Instagram and Reddit fixing sports.
A large portion of the modern sports fan base rarely watches the games. What we’re seeing is that unless your brand is visible or spoken of outside of the match itself, you’re significantly more limited in your overall reach compared to the multi-pronged approach of hitting Gen Z across a range of touchpoints in the places they hang out.
A brand that doesn’t run ads during the World Cup can be more successful than other brands if it’s hitting the right messages in the right place and audience. If you’re after Gen Z, connecting yourself to the World Cup by building immersive experiences and giving fans a platform to create their own communities in a controlled environment is a much better way to develop authentic relationships.
Younger fans are so bombarded with ads every day that they’re numb. Brands trying to connect with their fans and the sport experience With From them, they will see much more success and better customers in the long run than those who buy 30-second ad placements during the prime time period.”
GJ: “How can brands generate interest among Gen Z ahead of the 2026 World Cup to be held in North America?”
KBuild authentic relationships with Gen Z. Take them along on the journey and get them to help guide your next move. Give them the platform and space to shape their unique connection with your brand by offering them curated experiences.
Connect your brand with people they care about and who reflect your brand pillars. We use a term called Phygital (Physical + Digital) here at Stadium Live, [which] It is the cornerstone of how we build relationships with Gen Z. That means creating digital experiences that matter. As a sports brand, you know that most of your Gen Z audience is on digital platforms but you need to reward them with something tangible to engage them.
We recently had a partnership with the fan-dominated football league which was a great example of that. We’ve digitized FCF jerseys and made them digital collectibles to wear on your Stadium Live avatars.
Fans could go to a live stream where we had athletes doing Q&A and interacting with our users. Fans were shaking their merchandise and showcasing their fans in a digital world, but they were also able to interact physically with them in a unique way that brought them closer to a fan-controlled soccer league.
Brands that want to earn real brand equity among Gen Z leading up to the World Cup need to bring experiences to their fans at real value. Brands that show they value their customers through their actions over words, always win.”
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Featured image: Robert Knech/Shutterstock