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Can brands still score with Americans during the World Cup?

Can brands still score with Americans during the World Cup?

The World Cup is big business.

Fox spent $500 million for World Cup broadcasting rights in the U.S. for 2018 and 2022. Brands everywhere, from clothing retailers to video games makers, are counting on the event to boost their bottom line, both in the U.S. and abroad.

But they probably didn’t plan for the U.S. to fail to qualify for the World Cup, and it could have a big impact on their business.

With no home team to root for, just 20% of Americans say they plan to watch any of the World Cup, according to a poll SurveyMonkey ran with ESPN.

Those aren’t encouraging numbers, especially when you consider that the U.S. played in four of the six matches most watched by Americans in the 2014 World Cup.

What does this mean for Fox and brands targeting U.S. soccer fans? Let’s find out.

Is there World Cup fever? Americans must be immune.

The majority (76%) of Americans say they aren’t watching or following news about the World Cup.

And those who are following it? Most will catch a few games here and there. Here’s a breakdown on Americans’ World Cup-watching plans:

  • 28% will watch multiple games. A number that bumps up to 33% for men and young adults (18-24 years old)
  • 34% plan to watch the “key” games only
  • 26% will only follow the news. This approach is particularly popular among older adults, ages 55 and older (36%), and women (30%)

News that Americans may watch games on occasion—if at all—may come as a relief to employers. Just 18% of respondents said they would watch games at work, and only 6% said they’d skip work to catch a game.

When it comes to the World Cup, are you a diehard fan? Relatively new to the tournament? Test your knowledge by taking one of our World Cup quizzes! 
I’m a superfan.
I’m no expert. 

Most Americans pass on making World Cup-related purchases

Americans don’t tend to spend much on soccer in the first place. More than half of Americans (51%) say they don’t make soccer-related purchases, while nearly three quarters (73%) spend less than $100 throughout the year.

Even those watching the World Cup (55%) aren’t likely to stray much from this pattern—especially without a home team to root for.

And those who plan to spend? There are only a few things they’ll consider buying:

  • 25% plan to buy food and drinks while watching games. This can explain why food and beverage companies tend to invest heavily on World Cup ads. For example, Anheuser-Busch’s “Light up the World Cup” campaign will be the company’s most expensive marketing campaign to date.
  • 13% want to let people know who they support by wearing a jersey from a participating player and team
  • 7% hope to buy EA Sports’ 2018 FIFA World Cup video game
  • 6% intend to buy gear for playing soccer

With generally low interest in soccer merchandise, do any apparel and merchandise brands have a shot at reaching American consumers?

To help us answer this question, we asked Americans: “When you think of the World Cup, which brand comes to mind first?”

For 39%, the answer was Adidas. The figure drastically outperforms competing brands, like Nike (24%), Puma (10%), and Umbro (8%).

As the brand comes top of mind for American consumers, Adidas might have an edge on competitors when it comes to jersey sales and other soccer-specific products.

It’s tough to know how much of an impact the U.S. team’s failure to qualify has on viewership since we didn’t run this survey back in 2014. But it’s safe to say that soccer’s popularity in America still has a ways to go.  Related: Who Americans are rooting for in this year's World Cup.

A significant share of Americans feel comfortable skipping the tournament, and most who will watch it will only do so on occasion. The companies who bet big on the U.S. soccer fans this year will have to take the approach fans are making: There’s always 2022.

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