June 10, 2014
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Innovation Scores Big at The World Cup™

Soccer fans around the world are rejoicing as the long-awaited FIFA World Cup™ 2014 is finally underway, but they’ll find that the world’s most popular sporting event will showcase more than just the beautiful game.

A long list of new innovations is set to make the 2014 tournament better than ever. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how innovation will impact both the players and the fans.


Player-worn GPS devices help coaches make real-time adjustments

If you look closely at the backs of the players during the games, you may notice a small bulge between their shoulder blades. That’s because players on several teams will be wearing GPS tracking technology. The palm-sized device fits inside a compression top that looks a lot like a sports bra (or a “bro” as it is often called for male users) that players wear under their jerseys.

The technology gives coaches real-time information about things like positioning, distance covered, heart rate, velocity, intensity and when a player starts to perform above or below his average levels. This data helps coaches implement optimal strategies, prevent injuries and make the right substitutions at the right times.



New technology lets referees know for certain when a goal is scored

The entire ball must pass over the goal line in order for there to be a goal, and close calls in these situations can be extremely difficult for officials to get right (although, some fans would argue that the referees have extreme difficulty getting any calls right).

Thankfully, FIFA has implemented new goal line technology to remove any controversy in determining whether or not a goal is scored. The innovative camera-based vision system, officially named GoalControl®, uses real-time image analysis to detect and track moving objects in complex situations. GoalControl® features 14 rooftop cameras that are able to capture a three-dimensional image of the ball. The system has proven to be extremely accurate and fast––referees receive a vibration and signal on their watches alerting them that a goal has been scored less than one second after the ball crosses the goal line.


Innovative cleats enhance players’ unique skills

It may seem that, aside from visual aesthetics, most soccer cleats are pretty much the same. But footwear suppliers have applied scientific designs to differentiate their shoes, custom-tailoring them to specific positions and playing styles.

For example, Adidas® F50s weigh just 150 grams to help strikers play as fast and efficient as possible. They’re made with a synthetic leather exterior for added comfort and a thin layer of gripping texture to improve ball control. Even the stud alignment is said to maximize bursts of speed and quick changes of direction.

And for those less flashy, more utilitarian players, Adidas® Nitrocharge cleats incorporate a spring-like technology that make it easier to push off and sprint, helping players to conserve energy. The shoes also include extra padding in the toe and heal to protect players while making hard tackles.

Not surprisingly, Nike® has some new cleats of its own to show-off. The lightweight Mercurial cleats have thin cables woven into the side that connect with the heel structure to provide a slingshot effect, helping to propel the player’s stride. The brand’s Magista cleats have a 3D knitted fabric exterior to create friction on the ball, giving attacking playmakers increased accuracy. Both models also incorporate Flyknit™ technology that gives them a sock-like feel and puts the foot closer to the ball for enhanced ball-feel and control.


Latest jerseys help players beat the heat

As one would expect, apparel manufacturers put a great deal of emphasis on combating Brazil’s notorious heat and humidity with lighter, more breathable uniforms. And, though moisture-wicking technology has been around for a while, the companies supplying uniforms for the World Cup™ have taken things to a whole new level.

Adidas® jerseys are created from ultra-light polyester material called Adizero™ that is 40% lighter than the material used to make the jerseys that the brand supplied for the 2010 World Cup™.

Not to be outdone, Nike®’s jerseys feature the latest version of the company’s acclaimed Dri-FIT™ technology with mesh cooling, laser-cut air holes and a mix of cotton and recycled polyester that draws sweat away from skin. And finally, Puma®’s jerseys combine moisture-wicking fabrics with athletic taping that is said to massage the skin and more efficiently supply energy to the muscles.


Brazuca is meticulously designed for high performance

With its unpredictable wobbles, dips and swerves, players were less than thrilled with the ball used during the last World Cup™. Adidas® has worked hard to ensure that those complaints from 2010 become a distant memory. Named Brazuca, the official match ball for the 2014 World Cup™ has just six dimpled panels and deeper cuts in the seam to create more drag, better accuracy and a predictable flight path. It’s even been fashioned to retain its shape and performance characteristics in Brazil’s tropical rains.



Neurotechnology allows paralyzed individual to make ceremonial kick-off

Emotions will be running high throughout the tournament, so it’s rather appropriate that the opening festivities featured a ceremonial kickoff that tugged at the heartstrings.

The capacity crowd in attendance and hundreds of thousands of fans watching around the world were in awe as the latest advancements in neuroscience allowed a paralyzed individual to walk to the center circle and kick the ball. All of this was made possible by using an amazing mind-controlled bionic exoskeleton developed by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis and an international team of neuroscientists as part of the Walk Again Project.

The event was deemed a huge success and will hopefully spur greater advancements in helping paralyzed people gain mobility.



4K Ultra HD broadcasting makes its World Cup™ debut

4K Ultra HD content treats viewers to a stunning 4,000 pixel by 2,000 pixel format (twice as many pixels vertically and horizontally as 1080p HDTVs), but it’s only available to those with Ultra HD televisions. Due to hefty price tags and lack of 4K content, sales of Ultra HD televisions have been sluggish. Sony®, looking to spur television sales and promote the growth of 4K content, is collaborating with FIFA to film and broadcast three matches, including the World Cup™ final. In order to generate buzz and make the content accessible to more people, the broadcast will also be shown in select cinemas and at some public venues with large enough screens.


Companies leverage innovative marketing programs to maximize brand engagement

Experts predict that the 2014 World Cup™ may become the most watched sporting event in history. So, much like the Super Bowl, big-time brands are stepping up with innovative marketing tactics to capture attention and engage all those fans.

For instance, Adidas® is running a unique campaign called, “All In or Nothing.” Most brands will take consumer opt-ins for online content any way they can get them (Don’t want emails? Okay, how about following us on Facebook instead?). But Adidas® is breaking from the traditional approach, seeking quality over quantity. After watching an online ad about star soccer players going all in with practice and preparation in hopes of having a successful World Cup™, viewers will be asked to make a simple choice: click the “all in” button or the “nothing” button. Those who say they are “all in” agree with the brand’s ethos and are automatically signed up for all Adidas® World Cup™ content, Twitter handles and CRM (customer relationship management) content. Those that choose “nothing,” are opted out of the brand’s CRM initiatives and automatically un-follow all Adidas® Twitter handles.

Another inventive example can be found courtesy of the golden arches. Part of the robust World Cup™ campaign created by McDonald’s® includes an augmented reality (AR) app that coincides with the first ever global redesign of the brand’s French fry boxes. Twelve artists from around the world were selected to create bold soccer-related designs to go on the iconic packaging. Besides providing a fresh look, these new designs can also be used to trigger a fun AR app called, “McDonald’s® GOL!” It’s as simple as downloading the app and holding the screen of a mobile device up to the box. As the device recognizes the artwork, a soccer field will appear in an AR scene on the screen, with the fry box as the goal and other objects as obstacles. The idea is to “kick” the ball with the flick of a finger and avoid or use obstacles to get the ball into the goal.

Sony®’s clever “One Stadium” creative kicked off with a crowd-sourcing competition that invited songwriters and fans to write an original track about the World Cup™ that will be recorded by Ricky Martin. The winning “Super Song” has already been selected and Martin’s rendition will be included on the official Sony® Music Entertainment and FIFA Brazil 2014 album (Alas, this probably isn’t the best news for those of us still trying to get Ricky’s “The Cup of Life” out of our heads from the ’98 World Cup™).

Finally, Coca-Cola® is utilizing its largest marketing campaign ever to engage consumers in brand new ways. The “Everyone’s Invited” campaign features a musical anthem called, “The World is Ours,” sung by The X-Factor talent David Correy and released in 32 versions tailored to different countries, with local artists adding their musical talents. The brand also plans to unveil a soccer field-sized “Happiness Flag” at the opening match of the World Cup™. The flag will be a giant mosaic made up of pictures and tweets from fans around the world.


Advertisers make distinct shift towards the internet

In addition to unique marketing programs, companies have also gotten innovative with their media buys, flexing to the new ways fans watch and talk about the games.

Many people will watch matches on computers, tablets and mobile phones, either as their primary source of content or as a way to supplement their television viewership (known as second screen viewing). These same viewers will be flooding social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with World Cup™-related commentary.

Because of this, online ad spending has gone up considerably. Last World Cup™, advertisers spent twice as much on television as they did online. This year, the gap has closed significantly. Research firm, eMarketer™, forecasts that $56 billion (45%) will be spent online compared to $68.5 billion (55%) on TV. In fact, advertising heavyweights like Adidas® and Nike® are spending more on internet advertising than they are on television. In addition to online ad spends, brands will have marketing teams at the ready to provide real-time commentary and fan engagement via social media networks.



Glossary of Soccer Terms

Even when watching a match in English, it can feel like the announcers are speaking a foreign language. Here’s a fun list of oft-used soccer vocabulary to get you prepared for the World Cup™. Drop a few of these terms into everyday conversation (preferably with a high-brow English accent) to impress friends and colleagues with your wit and sophistication.

Boots – soccer cleats

Caps – the number of times a player has played in a game for a particular team

Center Circle – circle around the center spot on the field where kickoffs are taken

FIFA – Fédération Internationale de Football Association; Soccer’s governing body

Football – what soccer is called in most other countries

Group of Death – a group in a multi-stage cup competition that is unusually competitive because the number of strong teams in the group is greater than the number of qualifying places available for the next phase of the tournament

Kit – uniform

Match – game

Pitch – the field of play

Sam’s Army & American Outlaws – the two most well-know fan groups of the U.S. national team

Stoppage Time – time added on by the official at the end of a half to compensate for time lost due to injuries, etc.

Yankees – the U.S. national team’s official nickname


Adam Siegel is an Associate Creative Director at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.

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