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 is chief executive officer of GroupM Next.
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