Google's Marketing Opportunities During Sporting Events

Google has released a study into the impact of major football tournaments on search engine queries and we look at the Euro 2016 marketing opportunities.

Google's Marketing Opportunities During Sporting Events
Written by Paul Mortimer
 |   6 minute read

Google recently released a study to marketers about how to capture the moment and seize an opportunity during UEFA Euro 2016. The document analyses the impact of the last major football tournament (the 2014 FIFA World Cup) on user searches and subsequent Euro 2016 marketing opportunities.

This post has been added to and updated on the 19th September, following the completion of the Summer 2016 sporting events.

Given that we are just entering the knock-out stages of this year's football tournament [Ed. At original time of writing], and we are in an Olympic summer, now is a good time to look at some of the key take aways.

Google related blog title image


Some Context [Purple headed content was written prior to Rio 2016.]

Euro 2016 is the biggest sporting event in Europe this year. For the first time, four home nation countries (England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland) have all qualified. UK interest is at a peak.

The month long tournament has already offered a boost to businesses. But now that our teams have made it through to the knock-out stage of the tournament, the feel good factor will promote further spending from customers.

Google have looked at previous trends from the last major football tournament and offered the following advice to help marketers and businesses capitalise.

Given the time difference, with this year's Olympics taking place in Brazil, UK interest in the games is likely to peak first thing in the morning. This is when many potential customers will be catching up on the night's events whilst getting ready for the day ahead.

We've found that many people catch up with emails and social media at this time of day, so there is an opportunity for some highly targeted nurturing throughout the games.


What We Can Learn From The 2014 World Cup

Using data from their own records, Google states that "Trips to Brazil" type searches spiked 6 months before the tournament, last-minute before the start and during. Users were searching for hotels and air travel, primarily. Both saw enormous growth in searches at the time of the tournament compared to typical yearly trends.

This shows that sporting tournaments influence user behaviour.

Google Hotel Data Graph

Google Air Travel Graph


How Can We Seize The Opportunity For Euro 2016 and The Olympics?

The document breaks down opportunities into three stages: learning from YouTube behaviour, preparing for search queries and displaying your brand.


Having crunched the numbers and monitored user patterns, YouTube analysis by Tubular Labs shows that 92% of football content fans are male and under the age of 34. Three quarters of these are under 24 years old - therefore, they should have ready disposable income.

Not all of these searchers end up following through with their metaphorical "Trip To Brazil". The consumer instinct is rife though, so other opportunities arise.

Looking at their wider viewing habits - as this is how we can start to capture this opportunity by finding our own niche - football fans also enjoy gaming, entertainment, other sports (shows potential for during the Olympics later in the summer) and comedy. Music and blogs are also favourites.


Google Fan Choices

Preparing For Search Queries

Seasonal search data has shown enormous growth at the time of a major tournament. This peak audience time can be narrowed and targetted further, in terms of a marketing point of view, to times when home nation countries are playing or other big events are taking place.

We need to prepare our content, social sharing and product offers to fall in line with what is motivating users to search at these peak times; half-time at a Euro 2016 match or a build up to a final at the Olympics, for example.

Although this type of audience targetting isn't a new idea, it's good to see Google present the case for doing it so clearly. Marketers need to "ensure maximum presence during query peaks", say Google.


How To Display Your Brand To This Active Audience

The opportunity lies in both purchase ready searchers as well as those still in the awareness stage (see diagram below). There is great opportunity to implement brand recognition amongst the latter, building trust by sharing content related to their favourite topic of the moment; the tournament. Providing, of course, it doesn't come across as opportunistic.

This can come in the form of fun or discussion pieces, additional products and discounts or just simply building an affinity with them by cheering on the same team.


Buyers Journey Diagram

Read more about Buyer Journeys here.


Who Can Most Easily Capture This Opportunity?

B2C marketers can reach a peak audience at times like this if they provide product which is likely to be stimulated by an interest in the tournament, such as; they offer a place to socialise, something to socialise with, a product to enhance the user's experience or even something to celebrate and then later commiserate with.

B2B marketers who supply those enjoying the above opportunities also need to ensure they are ready to keep up with demand.


Google Search Trends During Rio 2016 [Blue headed content was added following the release of Google's Olympic related search data, on 16th September 2016.]

Following months of trepidation, the games were largely a success - at least for the viewers at home. As predicted, dramatic moments at the games and the exposure of viewers to new sports led to a spike in certain search terms.

Here's what happened and how you can target these types of searches yourself in the future:

1. Big Sporting Moments Led To A Massive Number Of Micro Moments Online

These micro moments showed searchers were ready to purchase not just sporting equipment but also places to watch sport with other fans. "Near me" searches spiked throughout August for both "sports stores" and "sports bars".

This shows that big sporting events spark interest in subsidiary fields. Sports clubs, sports bars and sports stores "near me" were all searched in extra-high volume thanks to the Olympics. And they're mobile. Bear that in mind and target accordingly.


2. Parents Search For Kids Classes During Big Sporting Events

"Gymnastics for kids" got the highest search volume since the previous 2012 games in London. Parents are actively looking to get their kids into a local club or class which, besides being great news for coaches looking for new talent/customers, is also great news for nearby bars, restaurants, stores and the like. Parents will be interested in filling their time whilst their children take part in classes.

Your SEO could be adapted to work with and target this ready-to-purchase search audience. Especially on mobile when parents looks for something to do "near me", whilst they wait.


3. "How to" Searches Also Exploded

Again, further showing the trickle down effect of a spike in interest of a huge sporting event, "how to make a balance beam" trended globally during the Olympics.

That's huge.

All of a sudden, even DIY videos, supply stores and other related businesses can get in front of these pro-active searchers. If they're interested in making their own balance beams, what else might they make? What tools might they need?

It's another slant on the "I want that now" micro moment and is going to be replicated during other big sporting events as we go into autumn-winter 16/17: big football matches and the Superbowl, for example.

These principles can also be applied to other big TV events which are coming up. The Great British Bake Off (just look at Twitter's  on Wednesday nights to see what a phenomena it is), Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor are all likely to create their own "I want to do" and "find near me" micro moments.


Fans Go Into Learning Mode Whilst Watching Sport

And this is good news for inbound marketers who look to provide information to their potential customers in order to gain their trust. The physiotherapy technique of cupping (using heated glass to improve blood flow, but leaves athletes with purple bruising similar to a teenager's love-bite) was researched by people at home whenever the after-effects could be seen on athletes such as Michael Phelps. There was even a dedicated story to it on BBC Breakfast News, at one point, because so many people were curious about what it was and how it helped.

What type of headphones were being worn pre-event and what sports stars listen to were also searched massively. As were diet tips and recipes and, of course, training and equipment tips.

Viewers wanted to get little hacks and tricks from the world class sportspeople on their screens and turned to Google to find out what they could. If you can adapt this knowledge and similar tips into your content, you could be onto a winner.

"Get ready for a busy day at work by breakfasting like [insert sport or relevant star]" could be used by a variety of sites and industries: mental health and lifestyle blogs, food stores, restaurants, sports clubs... get creative and find an angle to get in there when people are on their device looking for tips to help improve their life.

Give them those and you can start moving them through your nurturing process.


What Olympic Searchers Also View On The Internet Provides Valuable Insight

People don't always search what you might expect them to given their geographical location (the biggest national searchers for "beach volleyball" was landlocked Switzerland, for example) and what else they search for is also very interesting for getting a more complete buyer persona.

Olympic fans are more likely than the average YouTube viewer to also watch content about gaming, motoring and travel. Also, back on Google, during the last winter Olympic games, there were 20x more general travel searches, year on year, during Sochi 2014.

It's all about expanding your content strategy to cater for the wider culture around a sporting event and the sports fan's other interests.

People love watching sport but they don't watch it in isolation. They need company, they need food and drink, they go out and emulate what they see on TV... they need TVs, speakers and furniture to sit on.

You can entertain and educate in a variety of areas to boost your reach during major sporting events. Just get your content optimised and make it worthwhile, then you can start targeting these fans going through ready-to-purchase micro moments by taking advantage of the many marketing opportunities during sporting events.


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