Google Search Interest in the World Cup Crushes the Super Bowl

If American marketers think the Super Bowl is a big deal, just wait until the FIFA World Cup. What the rest of the world calls “football” makes the “Big Game” in the United States look small, at least in terms of Web search interest.

In fact, what Americans call “soccer” is catching on stateside, too, and fast. This year, professional soccer is more popular than ever in the U.S., driven in part by the country’s growing Hispanic population. This means that the upcoming World Cup tournament is an unparalleled opportunity for marketers.

But, the playbook has changed, according to a new report published by Google. Over the last four years, technology has let fans engage with the games in new ways, and brands are following suit. Here are the new realities that every digital marketer should know to win over the World Cup audience.

FIFA World Cup Will Be Largest Sporting Event in Last Five Years

The World Cup is the largest, most connected global sporting event. Worldwide, it has more interest on Google Search than the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and the Tour de France combined. If marketers are looking to reach an audience of sports fans – from the crazed to the casual – the opportunity doesn’t get any bigger.

Search Interest for Major Sporting Events


SOURCE: Google Data, January 1, 2010 – May 14, 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, Worldwide

While it’s big everywhere, the World Cup is most popular in Brazil and other Latin American countries.

Searches for FIFA World Cup by Country


SOURCE: Google Data, January 1 – May 15, 2014, Search Query Volume, Worldwide

U.S. Interest in Soccer Fueled by Urbanites and Hispanics

U.S. interest has been rising over the past five years, bolstered by key events like the World Cup and the Olympics.

U.S. Growth in Soccer Interest


SOURCE: Google Data, January 2009 – April 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

England’s Premier League is fueling U.S. interest in soccer, perhaps because there’s no language barrier – or because the United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language and watching videos like “An American Coach in London” from NBC Sports makes us laugh.

Either way, Google has seen 233 percent growth in interest over the past year alone. UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) is popular as well.

U.S. Interest in Premier League, MLS, and UEFA


Google is seeing the most searches for the World Cup coming from urban areas. Most of these cities also have large Hispanic populations. Indeed, just as Latin American countries are fueling global interest, the population growth of Hispanics is a large driver of interest in the U.S. According to the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of Hispanics are looking forward to the World Cup, compared to 15 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Top Metro Areas for “World Cup” Searches


Mobile Has Changed How Soccer Fans Watch the Game

In 2010, about 18 percent of searches for games, players, and teams during the World Cup final were done on a mobile device. Compare that to 2014, when 63 percent of those searches during a popular UEFA Champions League match were done on mobile – an early indicator of what digital marketers are likely to see during this year’s World Cup.

Fans aren’t just searching more on mobile; Google is actually seeing a new pattern of behavior emerge. During the 2010 World Cup, searches for games, players, and teams dipped during games when fans were focused on the big screen. Most search activity happened at the end of games on a desktop, as you can see below in the chart for the Spain vs. Netherlands World Cup match.

Query Volume for 2010 World Cup Spain vs. Netherlands Match


SOURCE: Google Data, July 11, 2010, Indexed Search Query Volume, Worldwide

This has changed significantly. Looking at a UEFA game this year, you can not only see that more searches happened during the game (mostly when goals were scored), but their combined volume far surpasses the searches at the end of the 2010 World Cup match.

Query Volume for 2014 UEFA Munich vs. Madrid Match


SOURCE: Google Data, April 29, 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, Worldwide

Today, watching games is a much more active experience. “Second screens” have become so common that it’s striking to see that it barely existed a mere four years ago. This is creating more moments for digital marketers to reach fans online, right when they’re most engaged.

Soccer Fans Are Glued to YouTube

Globally, soccer is by far the most watched sport on YouTube this year.

Sports Video Views on YouTube, April 13 – May 13, 2014


Source: Google Data, April 13 – May 13, 2014, Indexed Video Views, Worldwide

As the infographic below illustrates, there were 1.6 billion views of soccer content on YouTube globally from April 13 to May 13, 2014. A total of 64.7 million hours of soccer content was watched on YouTube globally, compared to 71,800 hours of soccer that were broadcast for the last World Cup globally.


Source: Google Data, April 13 – May 13, 2014, Video Views, Worldwide

Last month, four of the top 10 video ads on the April YouTube Ads Leaderboard were related to the World Cup. This includes the number one ad, Nike’s “Winner Stays,” which racked up an impressive 49 million views within a few days of launching. It features some of soccer’s biggest stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović, among others, and now has 66 million views.

In fact, the top five most-watched soccer videos in the U.S. right now were all published by brands. This is a new phenomenon. In May of 2010, only one of the top videos was branded (an ad for Brazilian food company Seara). And this year’s top videos already have 4.6 times more views on YouTube than the top five in 2010.

Why is this audience so valuable for digital marketers? Soccer fans care – a lot. According to a Google Consumer Survey conducted in May, 25 percent of men in the U.K. admitted to getting at least teary-eyed during a match (only 15 percent of women in the U.K. said the same). You don’t have to be in the sports business to tap into this passionate audience (in fact, most of the official sponsors aren’t). For example, Ogilvy Brazil won a Grand Prix at Cannes for “Immortal Fans,” an integrated campaign that encouraged fans of Sport Club Recif to become organ donors.

Related reading

Brand Top Level Domains