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Fox Shoots for the Stars With World Cup Marketing

Fox sports will focus much of its FIFA World Cup promotional effort around international soccer’s biggest stars and teams as it looks to build momentum for its summer coverage of the tournament in Russia, one that will go on without Team USA.

With less than 100 days before the June 14 launch of the tournament, Fox Sports — which will televise all 64 World Cup games on the Fox broadcast network or cable channel FS1 — is fine-tuning its marketing and promotional message to take full advantage of the global popularity of such stars as Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar da Silva Santos, executive vice president of marketing Robert Gottlieb said.

The marketing attention on the athletes will hopefully draw a younger audience, he added. Fox Sports plans to develop profiles of the soccer stars to air leading up to and throughout the tournament, although it did not disclose specifics.

“For the 18-to-35-year-old, those athletes have the same name recognition as [the NBA’s] Steph [Curry], LeBron [James] and [the NFL’s] Odell Beckham to the younger generation in this country,” Gottlieb said. “Part of what the internet has done is brought these global superstars — [whose fame] for years was mostly an overseas phenomenon —- into the living rooms and phones of Americans as they never did before.

“We’re talking to a lot of young, idealistic people who want to be part of a global moment and are connected to the world through digital and social that the older generation didn’t experience,” he added. “This is their sport to connect and rally around, and that becomes important in how we market it.”

He added that the loss of the U.S. men’s team — which failed to qualify for the World Cup tournament for the first time since 1986 — did not alter Fox Sports’s marketing plans for the event.

“The U.S. team would have been a nice additive bit of our marketing plan that obviously goes away, but was never the lead part of our strategy,” he said. “The nature of the World Cup is that you have these incredibly global superstars like Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar, and global brand-name teams like Germany, France, England and Brazil.

“That’s really what has traditionally driven World cup interest and audiences in the United States — much more so than the U.S. team, which typically has not been a threat to win the World Cup,” he said.

The network will also have a tremendous digital presence, with Fox Sports using its in-house websites as well as through its World Cup partners to reach young, enthusiastic and digital-savvy soccer fans. (Spanish-language TV rights to the tournament are held by NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo.)

“The World Cup has one of the strongest sports profiles on television, which is one of the reasons why we love this product so much,” he said. “We will have a tremendous digital and social connection to promote the World Cup. For the fans who’ll want to watch the games streaming live, as well as engage in a unique and incredibly cool digital and social experience, we will have an amazing offering for fans that will be really great through the Fox Sports app.”

R. Thomas Umstead
R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.