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: Marketers, Public Health Experts See Potential in World Cup 2014

Marketers, Public Health Experts See Potential in World Cup 2014

Managing Editor

This post first appeared as a blog post for the health communications blog, HealthComU, on July 7, 2014.

It seems like just about everyone has World Cup fever. Despite often playing second (or third, fourth, or fifth) fiddle to more popular American sports, every four years, the World Cup manages to captivate millions. Inspired children strap on shin guards and give the game a try, while chants of "USA! USA!" echo across the country.

This time around, the World Cup has attracted a new audience-those on social media. The 2014 World Cup is quickly becoming the biggest social media event ever, with 459 million posts, likes, and comments on Facebook about the tournament in the first week alone and 12.2 million tweets during the opening match. Comparatively, that's more social media interaction than the Super Bowl, the Sochi Winter Olympics, and the Academy Awards combined.

All this attention on social media means that marketers have an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of the tournament. All of these eyes on the World Cup mean eyes on advertisements, and that has raised concern among some public health experts who argue that fast food and beverage companies perhaps send a mixed message by promoting physical activity while selling less than healthy products. Likewise, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance expressed disappointment that the Brazilian government elected to forgo its ban on alcohol in sport stadiums during this year's World Cup, arguing that "FIFA's medical vision is "to improve everyone's health through football and science, and if they really want to achieve this, they should look into who they have as sponsors."

However, it seems that some companies havemanaged to find harmony between advertising and health and wellness promotion. Health communicators are getting in the "game." Johnson & Johnson, the official health care sponsor of the World Cup, kicked off its World Cup advertising with a unique campaign that barely mentions the tournament. Instead, it focuses on promotion of a campaign called " Once Upon a Care" that seeks to inspire a devotion to caring. It seems taking a different approach to its marketing has paid off for Johnson and Johnson, as its Once "Upon A Care" video has had more than 275,000 view since it was posted early last month.

Also taking advantage of what they knew would be a monumental audience, Brazilian health officials are using the World Cup as an opportunity to promote a program sponsored by UNAIDS called " Protect the Goal." The program focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and seeks to increase global HIV awareness. The program offers rapid HIV testing and counseling, free condoms, and emergency retroviral medication. The program is being offered in 11 Brazilian cities where World Cup teams are playing.

Advertising and promotion during sporting events is certainly nothing new, but these campaigns by Johnson & Johnson and UNAIDS are leveraging what has become a huge news story in traditional and social media channels and spreading their health messages. This technique is sometimes referred to as "newsjacking."

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
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