How To Score With Football Ads

As the World Cup kicks off, advertisers both global and local are releasing a raft of ads, looking to build their brands by capitalising on the competition’s popularity. But what makes a great World Cup ad?

At System1 we used our market research platforms to start looking for the answer with World Cup holders Germany. Our survey of German ads featured in marketing magazine W&V. In this piece, we want to spotlight the early pacesetter for World Cup advertising this year – from mail order firm Otto.

The ad follows the adventures of two TV deliverymen as they make a series of very unusual calls, going back in time to 1954, 1974 and 1990 – the three years when the former West Germany won the tournament. The three-minute ad is a visual delight: a retro riot of old school fashion, football strips, cars and brands.

In our testing the Otto ad got a more than respectable 4-Star score, suggesting the potential for strong brand building growth. There’s only one potential snag for the retailer – that a quarter of respondents thought the ad was for Samsung, the maker of the TVs that the men are delivering on their time travelling mission.

While the ad is clearly a tie-in with Samsung, the wider issue here is one of Brand Fluency. As well as leaving positive emotional impressions, it helps if an ad can be quickly associated with a particular brand. This does not have to be done by clumsy branding, heavy messaging or over-use of the logo – three things likely to turn viewers off. It can also be achieved by distinctive assets or Fluent Devices. However, if an ad prominently features a different brand, it is setting its creators up for fluency problems.

Meanwhile Germany have got their Football World Cup campaign off to a shaky start. Will the Otto ad prove more successful? In its home market, it’s the best of the bunch that we’ve tested. But as we test more ads – including daily automated text thing of ads in the US and UK for our Ad Ratings service – we are sure more World Cup stars will emerge.

One thing the Otto ad demonstrates is the different approach World Cup ads take to commercials from other big sports events, like the Olympics or Winter Olympics. In Olympic sports, high-scoring ads often focus on the passion and effort of individual athletes – like NBC’s 5-Star Winter Olympic ads earlier this year.

But for the World Cup, brands focus harder on the supporters, and the atmosphere around the event. Yes, the top brands can afford sponsorship deals with major stars, but for smaller players like Otto, the World Cup is an opportunity to be nostalgic and patriotic. It’s the paradox of World Cup advertising – in this event that captivates half the globe, the best adverts are often deeply local.


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident, creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand testing tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.

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