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A Social Generation Comes of Age at the World Cup

  |  July 4, 2014   |  Comments

This year's World Cup showed the confluence of the Internet and the real world and the impact that access and live action can have on people.

On the surface, little has changed for the U.S. men's national team at the World Cup in the past four years. In 2010, it was Ghana eliminating the Americans in extra time during the round of 16. This time it was Belgium delivering heartbreak at the same stage - again in extra time. No measurable difference, short of moral victories, to show in the final results.

And yet, so much has changed. Whether it is the marketing, the time zone difference between South Africa (the host country in 2010) and Brazil, or the natural evolution of a hungry fan base, this World Cup is a massive victory for everyone.

ESPN set records with nearly 2 million concurrent streams of the U.S. match versus Germany, which closed the group stage of the tournament. Marketers, both associated with FIFA and not, used social media and video networks to promote branded content around the event. And like every TV-driven event, Facebook and Twitter drove millions of interactions. In fact, the World Cup has already become the most talked-about event in Facebook's history, with 1 billion interactions and counting.

But it wasn't just online where the movement showed itself. For the match against Belgium, tens of thousands of U.S. fans packed Soldier Field in Chicago and "JerryWorld" in North Texas to watch.

This confluence of the Internet and the real world suggests that, while society continues to consume increasing amounts of media, there is a transferal taking place. Soccer's popularity in the U.S. has grown. In an age where live is the thing, the access to soccer, regardless of whether it is the Premier League, La Liga, or MLS, means more real-time content for consumers.

So, people have access and extended experiences created through apps. And now they want to share the experience. The viewing parties in the U.S. were as big as many held in soccer-crazed parts of Europe or South America. The social movement of the Web is returning to social experiences in person. People want to be with likeminded people and the World Cup enables that.

For team USA, the World Cup is over. A win against Ghana, a draw at the death versus Portugal, and two hard-fought defeats to Germany and Belgium. Four points, qualification, and then dismissal as one of the 16 best in the world, but no more.

Yet, what they proved is the power of sport, the impact of social gatherings - online and off - and the impact that access and live action can have on people. And that, someday, maybe even four years from now in Russia, will be the lasting U.S. legacy of this World Cup.

Image via Shutterstock.


Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare). The focus is participating with those companies leading changes that most impact consumer media consumption, brand favorability, and purchase behavior.

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP. Together, GroupM agencies represent almost $30 billion in overall North American billings (RECMA).

Chris helped guide the development of GroupM Next, which was established to deliver the best thinking and new insights from within the GroupM community. The unit also focuses on technology innovation connecting all media channels, but especially, online, social, mobile, and addressable.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments are the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which managed $1.3 billion in search billings globally and grew to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries. In 2009, Chris created the research division of GroupM Search and developed research studies that deepened the understanding of consumer behavior across search and social media for leading brands and garnered global traction - most notably: The Influenced: Social Media, Search, and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption; The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Social Media in the Purchase Pathway;and From Intent to In-Store: Search's Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile.

Chris entered the digital industry in 1996 when he joined search marketing agency WGI (later acquired by Tempus Group). He has been with the WPP and GroupM family of companies since 2000 when, recognizing search as an emerging media channel with incredible potential for brands, WPP acquired Tempus Group and CIA, and ultimately rebranded the search marketing agency as Outrider. As senior partner and managing director of Outrider, Chris delivered on GroupM's vision for the channel, leading the organization to 500 percent growth with global presence over five years, and establishing award-winning search marketing strategies that have become industry-wide best practices. In 2002, Chris successfully implemented the integration of search into the cross-channel media planning process at MEC, creating the first search marketing practice to sit within a media communications and planning company. In 2007, he guided the business expansion of search marketing practices into all GroupM agencies. In 2009, Chris was named CEO of GroupM Search, where he was responsible for driving global search strategy for the organization, while fostering the innovative application of search as an integrated channel. In his role, Chris also provided digital strategy counsel for clients, including AT&T, Dell, Audi, Volkswagen, and more.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace and how the space is evolving, and serves as a regular resource to national and industry press. Chris contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and MediaBizBloggers.com. In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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