Marketers use augmented reality, NFTs, and virtual worlds to bring Web3 to the FIFA World Cup.

As more than a million soccer fans are expected to visit Qatar during the FIFA World Cup, a slew of brands and tech firms are hoping to score points in places other than the Middle East.

The month-long event, which begins this weekend, will be the first since Russia hosted the World Cup in 2018, long before the term “Web3” entered the worldwide vernacular. As linear TV and traditional social media diminish, official and non-official sponsors are attempting to capitalize on the frenzy with a variety of NFTs, virtual worlds, augmented reality tools, and other fashionable tech.

The collaborations are as different as the teams competing in the competition. In a new Adidas World Cup campaign, for example, a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT figure appears alongside soccer players Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema. Meanwhile, other brands, such as Visa, the cryptocurrency exchange, and Swiss watchmaker Hublot, are assisting fans in creating digital art or exploring virtual stadiums as part of their Qatar 2022 marketing efforts.

When it comes to putting innovative technology to the test, the World Cup may be a better bet than other sports. According to Kantar’s poll of 29,500 soccer fans from 31 key worldwide markets, soccer enthusiasts were more inclined than the global average to seek out unique experiences, develop online acquaintances, and purchase cutting-edge technology. They also had greater earnings, a slightly younger demographic, were identified as early adopters, and used streaming TV or video.

The integrations show that many firms are still willing to experiment with new technology in order to stand out from the crowd during the month-long worldwide event. According to Chris Ross, a Gartner marketing researcher, the convergence of elements and the disruption of social networks like Twitter, which is frequently used for advertising and organic content during significant events, is prompting marketers to go beyond their typical channels.

“As a result of what’s occurring with Twitter, there may be some hunger for marketers to try with some other media,” Ross said. “Perhaps just to test the waters and see what happens, but they could also be hedging their bets.”

Rather than simply reaching people through transitory films and advertisements, other internet platforms want to provide new methods for fans to connect both electronically and in person. Upland, an Earth-themed virtual world platform, has teamed with FIFA to develop NFT collections, host digital and in-person watch parties throughout the world, and display unique video highlights. In addition, Upland and FIFA have developed a duplicate of Qatar’s Lusail Stadium, complete with branded towns, showrooms, and stores.

The idea, according to Upland Co-Founder and Co-CEO Dirk Lueth, is to provide soccer fans with “context to speak about” beyond browsing through videos and text in standard social media feeds. This involves discussing the game, purchasing digital products, and exploring other virtual worlds. “I believe that is the future of social networks: providing context where people are seeking it,” Lueth added.

Stadium Live, a Gen Z-focused sports community network, intends to be a second-screen destination for fans to communicate live during games rather than establishing NFTs and metaverses. Until recently, the app, which has 150,000 monthly active users, was mostly concerned with other sports. It has just gotten money from soccer star Blaise Matuidi and is collaborating with players Matuidi, Yohan Cabeye, and Miralem Pjani to create movies and avatars and give away pixelated branded products based on the French and Bosnian stars.

“Brands are realizing that their fan base isn’t as receptive to traditional marketing as it once was,” said Mathieu Bilodeau, marketing manager at Stadium Live. “This is one of the first World Cups since Fortnight’s rise to prominence.” Many of these firms are seeing that sports fans may be music lovers, art fans, fashion fans, and especially gaming enthusiasts—those two verticals are incredibly connected.”

Gaming businesses are also developing methods to participate in the World Cup. FIFA just signed a multi-year agreement with Roblox. Nike is collaborating with the car soccer game “Rocket League,” and Activision is collaborating with Brazil’s Neymar Jr., France’s Paul Pogba, and Argentina’s Lionel Messi to make “Call of Duty” players look like soccer stars inside the popular first-person shooter.

This year, augmented reality will also play a part. Snap Inc. launched a slew of AR capabilities for Snapchatters during the World Cup on Wednesday. Along with new global AR glasses for a number of national teams, Snap is using the event to launch its new “live garment transfer” innovation with Adidas, which allows people to digitally put on jerseys to see how they appear on different body types. Peacock, Chevrolet, and Samsung are also World Cup partners, allowing users to follow stats and utilize various visual and audio AR glasses. (In addition, Snapchat created a new interactive AR soccer game for Middle Eastern users.)

The World Cup is also an opportunity for Snap to market itself in one of the first major events since the company announced a major restructuring in September, with AR being one of three key areas of focus.

“The World Cup and the Olympics are the two most important global events,” said Clayton Peters, Snap’s head of verticals in the United States. “As a result, we can involve the entire global community in some of these new products, solicit input, and quickly learn how things are functioning.” “Not just in one or two key markets, but for a truly global world with 32 competing teams and billions of viewers.”

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