2014 FIFA World Cup Has A New MVP: The Smartphone

Jun 23, 2014

Since the World Cup first captured the hearts of sports fans across the globe (which didn’t matter for women until 1998, when David Beckham first graced the screen), only three things about the games have mattered: which country you root for, how loud you yell and which teams look best with their shirts off. (Hint: There are no losers.) With the advancement of mobile technology, however, this year’s Brazil-based games have witnessed the arrival of another major player in World Cup fever – smartphones: the communication-apparatus-turned-soccer-godsend for fútbol aficionados on the go.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a recent poll found that, when it came to keeping up with the World Cup, smartphone use was only second to TV in 11 different markets – Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the UK and the US – a shocking 48% to 63%, respectively. While 45% of these mobile fans are using their smartphones to check scores from anywhere, anytime, others are using it to live-stream the game from work, watch replays on YouTube or post results on Facebook and Twitter; further affirming this year’s games as quite possibly the most social event in history. And with more than 1 million mobile connections and 135,000 mobile calls occurring as a direct result of the 2014 opening match alone – kicking off a data surge that documented 37% of fans interacting with mobile ads, 68% paying to watch the games through mobile video and 35% following game stats on their phones while watching it live on TV – telco brands and developers are capitalizing on this year’s World Cup in a critical way: they’re making themselves a part of the experience.

Considering that FIFA expects a documented 3.6 million fans from around the world to travel to and from Brazil over the next few weeks, the impact of mobile technology during the 2014 World Cup will go beyond the realm of score stats, live feeds and selfies from the stadium, and extend its reach to travel and hospitality brands, as well. In fact, according to Darren Huston, CEO of The Priceline Group and its largest brand, – which reported more than $8 billion in mobile hotel bookings in 2013 – smartphones give travel brands a platform to engage with customers and establish a personal connection based on more than mobile reservations. Building opportunities for hotels and airlines to plumb the end-to-end user experience and win direct customers through the functionality and convenience of available Wi-Fi, GPS technology and branded applications, smartphones have turned the traditional travel experience into a virtual one – and telco providers and World Cup organizers are using these developments for their own financial gain.

We’re saying it now and we’ve said it before: Mobile is no longer just a tool for communication. It has become an integral part of our everyday lives, keeps us connected wherever we are, and proven by its popularity in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, plays a critical role in making those memories that last us a lifetime. An added bonus? It keeps fans (and their teams) close to home.

How do you see the role of mobile technology in global events today? How have smartphones impacted your 2014 World Cup experience?

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