Americans are known for many things around the world, but our love for soccer is not one of them. Every four years, we get a chance to change that.
Crazier things have already happened at World Cup 2014. The heavily favored host country Brazil scored an own goal, its first in tournament history, just 10 minutes into play of its opening match against Croatia.
Like everything else in life, the amplification of moments like these is being carried over social media to an exponential degree. Tweets and status updates will have as much to do with the experience of this year's tournament as any video stream or broadcast.
Facebook, Twitter, Google and others are doing their part to organize this deluge of data in ways that play up the strengths of their respective platforms. "Each platform is unique in its use," writes Josh Crick, director of David&Goliath's digital business.
"Facebook will primarily be used to claim your team, taunt your friends and speculate on the upcoming game. Expect your Facebook friends to update their profile pics with country flags, their favorite team's jersey, and post incessantly about the 3-nil win their team is sure to have in the upcoming match," Crick adds.
"Twitter will be the in-game news feed that draws fans into a real-time conversation about the action on the pitch. It will also be the platform where the most in-game social jabs and barbs are traded as fans do their best to will their team to the podium," Crick continues. "Facebook will see considerable content creation, but Twitter is going to be the big winner and I'm confident we will see new tweet volume records for the platform."
Facebook's Trending World Cup page is targeted to at least 500 million users who are fans of the sport, providing them with updates on their favorite teams and players throughout the tournament. Facebook is compiling tournament-related posts from friends, players and teams but the experience lacks some sense of urgency.
The world's largest social network is also leveraging its global dominance to show the location of top players' fans on a world map.
Twitter is taking a different tact but using the same ubiquitious #WorldCup hashtag as Facebook to populate features like its "World Cup of Tweets. The company has also curated lists and created special pages that showcase the accounts of players, teams and official broadcast partners. When users login they will also see a link to a new page that prompts them to "choose their favorite team and follow the most relevant accounts.
If Twitter and Facebook can't make futbol fans out of Americans on their own, maybe Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima can. She's being featured in a series of ads and other content created by David&Goliath for Kia to raise that very possibility (and maybe sell some cars in the process). Kia is encouraging the users it reaches on Facebook, Twitter, Vine and YouTube to join the action and #BecomeAFan.
Advertising started to flow ahead of the event, creating early discussions in the social space, says Eric Johnson, president of Ignited, a digital agency that buys digital ads for brands such as NBC Universal.
"It's almost like there's a competition among advertisers to get the most famous athlete shot in the most beautiful way, doing the most amazing stuff or doing it in the most clever fashion in and around soccer," Johnson says. "I think it brings more visibility to the sport. I think the advertising effect is going to be meaningful."
Many brands have a lot riding on that opportunity. Adidas has gone #allin, giving double meaning to the hashtag of choice for its World Cup campaign. "This is the largest, holistic product and marketing offensive we've ever had in soccer," says Lia Vakoutis, head of digital at Adidas America, remarking on the campaign that stretches across television, print, out of home, online, mobile and retail.
Fans also have a chance to be featured in a campaign alongside star players on ESPN.com by sharing their own battle cries on Facebook.
"People do attach a loyalty for those companies that sponsor the thing they love," says Johnson. "I think there can be a similar thing in lots of other sports. I think people tend to buy beers that are sponsoring the NFL. It's not just getting a message in front of them, it feels like you're supporting the thing they love."
Up to a quarter of all 18-24 year olds recently surveyed by Nielsen said they would post to social media while following World Cup action. More than one third tell the firm they are likely to use their mobile device to look up scores or information on players and teams.
"For some reason [soccer] elicits a deeper emotion, and when you can connect to something that people are incredibly attached to and are emotional about it creates an opportunity for a bond with a brand that you can't get just with traditional advertising," Johnson says.