2022 FIFA World Cup: Marketing and more!

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is over, so, now what? It’s time to reflect, of course! The tournament was great and action-packed. The U.S. Men’s National Team advanced from Group B. Morocco made a Cinderella run. Lionel Messi finally lifted the trophy.

The on-field action has been covered in spades, so we’re reflecting on the tournament that was through some of the off-field things that caught our attention. Think brand involvement, TV viewership, etc.

As Fabrizio Romano, the Adrian Wojnarowski of soccer, would say, “Here we go!”

FINAL VIEWING NUMBERS

Let’s start where the tournament ended. While Messi and Argentina lifted the trophy in Doha, nearly 26 million Americans tuned in to the final of the greatest global sporting spectacle. How do we arrive at that number? Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald to provide some context for this game and its place among the pantheon of most-watched soccer games in U.S. history.

The numbers are likely to shift as more data becomes available, but for now, the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final is the third most-watched soccer broadcast. Click on the tweet above and the link to Tannenwald’s article to see a full spreadsheet worth of viewership insights from the past few decades.

RED, WHITE & BLUE IMPACT

The U.S. Men’s National Team played four games, which means they got out of their group. While the fourth game didn’t go as fans hoped and players planned, the support in the U.S. from hardcore and casual fans alike was tremendous. Here are the viewership numbers for each of the four U.S. games.

GAMETOTALFOX TVFOX STREAMTLMD TVTLMD STREAM
USA v. WAL11.7M7.7M563K2.4M1.0M
USA v. ENG21.8M16.7M522K3.3M1.3M
USA v. IRA17.513M959K2.4M1.1M
USA v. NED18.9M14.7M597K3.6MN/A

AMERICA’S TOP SOCCER MARKET

If Americans tuned into the tournament in large numbers, one of the next logical questions is which markets tuned in most. Thanks to Washington Post soccer writer, Steven Goff, here are some insights into top markets across a variety of games based on FOX viewership.

GAMEMKT #1MKT #2MKT #3MKT #4MKT #5
USA v. WALAustinCincinnatiDallasSan DiegoPhiladelphia
USA v. ENGKansas CityHartfordBostonDallasWash., D.C.
USA v. IRAWash., D.C.ProvidenceBostonBaltimoreKansas City
USA v. NEDCincinnatiSt. LouisWash., D.C.Kansas CityAustin
ARG v. CRODenverSan FranciscoAustinNew YorkWash., D.C.
FRA v. MARNew YorkSan FranciscoWash., D.C.ProvidenceDallas
ARG v. FRAWash., D.C.New YorkBostonSan FranciscoAustin

Obviously, we’re cherry-picking a few matches from the tournament and not providing full context, but from what we’re sharing it is interesting to note the markets that appear multiple times. We’ll stop short of donning each market as Soccer City USA, but there are trends here we’d expect to be replicated when full data is released.

FIFA WORLD CUP TONIGHT

Before the tournament, FOX Sports announced its team of commentators, hosts, and analysts. One name in particular stood out and was perhaps a headscratcher for some, but we were intrigued at Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson’s prospects. Paired mostly with the incredibly talented Kate Abdo and the burgeoning commentator and analyst Mo Edu, Chad did pretty well in his role, as FIFA World Cup Tonight was an entertaining watch.

Johnson’s knowledge of the sport and some of its biggest stars was more than adequate once he found his groove. As a former NFL player and well-known American athlete, his inclusion was a play at crossover appeal by FOX, which makes sense given the timeframe of the tournament juxtaposed against the NFL and other professional sports leagues. The program’s daily post-primetime slot also aligned with the time of day when many sports fans are used to flipping through channels looking for a game to watch – Pac-12 After Dark, anyone?

The show was hardly just about Johnson though, as Abdo, Edu, and other occasional guests from FOX’s deep cast of talent did well recapping the day’s action with a hint of humor.

U.S. SOCCER SPONSORS QUIETLY SHOW OFF

Like most of the world, U.S. Soccer sponsors appeared to want little to do with the geo-political ripple effect that came with many of the human rights controversies attached to Qatar’s hosting of the global game.

Instead, U.S. Soccer sponsors like BioSteel, Chipotle, Visa, and Volkswagen focused on their relationship with the U.S. Soccer body as they build investment in the sport ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. 

Here are a few examples:

  • CHIPOTLE – Activations included exclusive on-site interviews shared via social media with brand ambassadors and USMNT stars Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie. There were also free giveaways following each USMNT goal.
  • VOLKSWAGEN – Volkswagen activated with custom murals of each American player at VW dealerships in their respective hometowns as part of the unveiling of U.S. Soccer’s FIFA World Cup roster. During the Group Stage, Volkswagen broadcasted all of the U.S. matches at its booth during the 10-day Los Angeles Auto Show.

According to Morning Consult, U.S. Soccer has seen a 70% increase in average year-over-year sponsorship revenue growth for deals that were up for renewal, including recently announced extensions with Allstate, Chipotle, and Volkswagen.

BUDWEISER ADAPTS ON-THE-GO

Budweiser, which has been the official beer sponsor of the FIFA World Cup for the last 36 years, faced a major crisis just two days before the tournament in Qatar kicked off. It could have been catastrophic when Qatar’s government forbid the sale of alcohol in-or-around the tournament stadiums during the event.

However, thanks to Budweiser’s ability to adapt and pivot on the bounce salvaged their activations, catastrophe was avoided.

The King of Beers maintained its reign by pushing the sale and advertisement of its alcohol-free Budweiser Zero. When faced with the estimated $5 million worth of unusable beer in Qatar, Budweiser announced that the winning nation would also receive “A celebration on us” and unveiled a new slogan that could be seen inside the stadiums: “Bring Home the Bud.”

PANINI MANIA

Are we patting ourselves on the back a bit with this one? Maybe, but it is important to give a nod to everyone’s favorite FIFA World Cup sticker album.

As we’ve done during previous tournaments, we helped Panini distribute millions of albums and stickers to fans young and old across the country from September through the end of tournament.

With the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup on home soil rapidly coming into focus, Panini is poised for massive distribution numbers.

Like, massive.

To do this, Panini must expand their reach among the General Market audience – something we fully anticipate will happen as more and more people jump aboard the 50-year global tradition that is sticker collecting.

TED WASN’T AS PRESENT AS WE THOUGHT

We were a bit surprised that Apple TV’s fictional American soccer coach Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudekis, wasn’t more involved during the month-long marathon of matches.

That’s not to say Lasso & Co. were not involved. They were… but mostly in the lead up to the tournament, including those heartfelt and inspirational billboards that appeared in the home markets of the USMNT stars.

McDonald’s also launched a special market-specific, social-first “Wanna go to McDonald’s” campaign with Sudekis as Ted Lasso. A few global examples include:

  • CANADA – To mark team Canada’s first FIFA World Cup appearance in 36 years, the actors flipped the script on red and yellow cards, turning them into something to be excited about. As cards went up during games, McDonald’s Canada sent promotional codes to order free McDonald’s.
  • MIDDLE EAST – Any time a ref showed a red card, fans were encouraged to snap a pic, draw fries on the card, and post it with the hashtag #WannaGoToMcD. In return, they received a promo code for free fries in the app.
  • CHINA – With peak viewing hours for the FIFA World Cup coming during the middle of the night in China, McDonald’s sent McDeliveries via a special team of “midnight riders” with unique uniforms.

All in all, Ted Lasso was involved in the 2022 FIFA World Cup – just not as much as we expected.

IN MEMORIUM – GRANT WAHL

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include the passing of Grant Wahl among our top off-field stories. There’s not much more to say that hasn’t already been written or said more eloquently elsewhere, but given his impact on the coverage and growth of soccer in this country, there’s no better way to end our tournament coverage than acknowledging his unexpected passing.

We recently wrote a bit more about how Grant impacted a few of us, individually.

Categories: Broadcast, Feature, Featured, Fox, Soccer Marketing, Sponsorship, Television Ratings, U.S. Soccer, World Cup