Every four years the most popular sport in this planet makes an appearance for nearly a month with the very much desired World Cup.
In today’s connected world, every major event generates many other conversations. Or at least we can measure much better what people are discussing compared to old times when the world was offline-only.
As a football lover, I can’t help but enjoy every moment of this competition: watching the matches, reading the news, sharing the memes. I got curious to find out what else makes people connected besides the tension during a match and the excitement of celebrating a goal. This article is basically a trend and keyword research on how people are searching on Google about the World Cup.
Since the event is happening right as a write this piece, we won’t always have the numbers to compare – Google Keyword Planner will only update late in July with consolidated numbers from June. To outcome that, I’m using Google Trends to estimate what is happening now and compare to Brazil’s 2014 World Cup.
Most of the keywords and numbers in this article were searched in English, with worldwide as location, so we’re limited by the language.
The only exception is when Google Trends have the search as a topic, which means all languages are included and more than just the specific search term. The Trends screenshots will show when the data is English-only (“search term”) or all languages (the topic name will appear below the search, e.g. “football tournament”). I’ll highlight the same in each piece of information.
As my beloved Brazil is trying to win the World Cup for the sixth time and my hopes are high, let’s score six World Cup trends:
1 – Neymar hairstyle: more (un)popular than ever
While in 2002 the Brazilian Ronaldo (aka “The Phenomenon”) had a horrible haircut to deviate attention from his injured knee, I doubt Neymar did the same to make the media forget that he is just back after three months of inactivity and a foot surgery. As anyone following the PSG star knows, he’s quite vain and is always seeking for attention inside and outside the field.
He definitely scored high on Google: searches for Neymar’s haircut were never so big as the predictions estimate for June 2018. In June and July 2014 he got, respectively, 87% and 84% of the same search attention.
In fact, Google autocomplete suggests a little more:
Unfortunately for him, a lot of the current attention he’s got over the last weeks are comparing his hair to instant noodles or spaghetti, something I can bet he’s not happy with! Neymar promptly got a more discreet haircut after the jokes arose.
Prediction: I imagine that the during next World Cup, in 2022, searches for his “2018 World Cup model” hair will come back strong, especially if his football is not spectacular.
Not enough looking at the trends (which are just relative to the highest interest point), here’s a snapshot on searches related to the Brazilian footballer hairstyle over the last four years:
I’m very curious to look at the searches mocking his hair once the Keyword Planner update its numbers – Once numbers are out, this post will be updated.
If the trend is correct, we’re looking at over 120k Neymar hair searches here. If I had an instant noodles brand as a client, I’d be bidding in these searches on PPC!
2 – The world has not forgotten about the 7×1… Or has it?
One of saddest days in Brazil’s football history has not yet been left behind. Four years after Germany scored 7 goals and crashed Brazilian hopes to become hexacampeões at home, searches for “7×1” spiked a few times in the last years – never so high as July 2018 – but the prediction points a 75% interested compared to when the match happened in July 2014.
If four years ago Google Keyword Planner estimated 18.100 searches just for this specific term, this would mean another 13.575 searches this month. Keep in mind that this is a specific search for “7×1”, no mentions to any of the teams or the competition!
Looking a bit closer, guess which country can’t stop searching about this? If you guessed Brazil, you can run and celebrate, because you scored a bicycle kick! Since there are just numbers in the search term, this trend is looking at worldwide data instead of English-only as stated at the beginning of the post.
Ps: the last touch in this article has been done on June 28, just at the end of World Cup’s group phase, so I gotta say: Bye-bye Germany!
3 – Not qualified, are Italians, Americans and Dutch still interested in the World Cup?
Some traditional nations didn’t make to the World Cup this year: Italy is out for the first time in 60 years and The Netherlands also didn’t qualify. Probably none of them would beat the USA in terms of search value for the competition, even though they have a stronger soccer tradition.
Would you still be as much interested in such competition of your country weren’t playing? I never had to confront this situation yet – Brazil is the only country that participated in all World Cups – but I’d certainly be way less interested. However, football is full of surprises, so let’s look at the trends!
Italians are still very much excited about the World Cup, despite the tragedy of not having a chance to win their fifth trophy. The prediction from Google Trends points to an 95 out of 100 score, being the highest interest ever registered online during the 2014 World Cup. Less, but still quite high!
The Dutch are not really in the same place, but still interested: predictions are pointing to a 73% interest compared to the previous World Cup, where they came in 3rd place. Sadly, no flying Dutchman this time!
Similar trend is seen in the United States: their interest for Russia’s World Cup is only 17% lower if compared to June 2014, according to Google Trends. Despite not having their national team on the field, American citizens were still the number one ticket buyers after the hosting nation up until April 2018, having over 80.000 tickets in their hands.
We can’t say the same about their interested in watching the matches: TV ratings are falling down, at least at the beginning at the competition: 44% less audience in FOX and Telemundo accordingly to a report from Bloomberg. Would Mexico’s impressive results so far also make American citizens a little more interested?
4 – For the first time, Iceland and Panama. How much do they care?
The World Cup has 32 participant nations this year and for the first time in history, Iceland and Panama are having a chance to play. As you can expect, Icelanders were never so excited: compared to the last event, the prediction shows a 46% increase in search interest about the World Cup!
Panama, surprisingly, seems to be growing only 13% when compared to the last World Cup in the current estimations. Do they love football rather they are playing or absolutely don’t care?
Searches for “mundial” (“World Cup” in Spanish) were over 11.5MM during the 2014 championship. This seems huge for a nation with only 4 million inhabitants. Beautiful score for the Panamanian web searchers!
5 – Is online broadcasting increasing?
More smartphones, faster internet, easier access. Would you expect more people watching the World Cup, right? I would too, but we I can’t guarantee we’re right.
According to keyword planner, 1.4MM searches for “world cup watch online” happened during the event in Brazil four years ago. On the other side, the trends data is actually estimating less than 30% of the interest for this specific search term when compared to the peak, which was actually during South Africa’s World Cup in 2010. This is the only worldwide trend in this post that is going down!
I’d imagine, in this case, the search behaviour has changed: while unofficial video streaming is quite popular for other sports tournaments as you need to pay for streaming or cable, in many countries, there are official TV channels broadcasting the matches online for free. Some examples are BBC in the UK, RTE in Ireland and SBS in Australia.
Needless to say, people search when they need to find something, but if they have a website to watch the World Cup for free, legally and in HD, there is no reason to search no more. I’m watching all games using the RTE Player myself and knew this before having a need to search for it on Google.
While how people search for online World Cup matches probably has changed, the online broadcasting numbers are impressive: In the UK, 13.7MM people watched England vs Tunisia on TV, joined by another 3MM via online broadcast – 21% of the all audience was online!
I still believe the numbers after the World Cup will show much higher online viewers numbers, but people will have done fewer searches to find where to watch the games.
In time: in many countries including Spain, UK and Ireland, Google is showing links directly to local streamings broadcasting the matches live and after the match to FIFA’s YouTube channel where the whole match can be rewatched. Even if I searched only for the results of a match, I’d be shown a link to watch it live.
Searching for "world cup matches today" in Google from Spain, the world cup news box results w/ a "Ver en Directo" (Watch Live) link goes to the local TV streaming page, and also has a "previous match" link going to the match summary video in the YouTube account of the TV channel pic.twitter.com/oQn91mbvRI
— Aleyda Solis (@aleyda) June 18, 2018
My own prediction for the next World Cup: as broadcasting transmissions are geo limited, a lot of the pages where someone could watch the match don’t actually work once you’re on the page. I believe Google will have solved before way before 2022!
6 – Memes are World Cup champions: over 32MM searches!
Lastly, memes are such a trend over the last years and couldn’t be left out! While most of the meme flow happens in social media or WhatsApp, the search volume on World Cup memes is also higher than ever:
The trend shows that we should expect numbers slightly higher than 2014. Back then, we already had an astonishing number of 32 million World Cup meme searches!
It’s not all: if you think how people behave and share on social media, there is still a lot of interested in World Cup memes that is not visible in search. We’re also not considering a lot of specific memes related to a specific player or match, but let’s find a couple of memorable 2018 World Cup memes so far and benchmark the interest behind them.
Back in 2014, Messi and Neymar draw on the meme World Cup competition with over 18k searches looking at the combination [name + meme], closely followed by Cristiano Ronaldo with 16k. The numbers are considering only the months of June and July (when the competition was held).
Just to facilitate the calculation, let’s look at the most popular month for each one of these searches during the 2014 World Cup and multiply by the current trend:
|Search Term||Month||Searches||Trend Increase||Expected Volume|
|Neymar meme||July 14||
|Messi meme||July 14||+60%||19300|
|Ronaldo meme||June 14||+42%||17180|
Ps: the trend was calculated alone for each player on Google Trends
On a more timely trend, one time hits are also having their moment on meme fame: Brazil coach Tite falling on the ground while celebrating a goal on the additional time against Costa Rica; Maradona was the highlight on the meme world when Argentina beat Nigeria making faces, sleeping during the match and showing his middle fingers at the crowd.
Maradona, Tite and Caballero managed to beat their team’s stars for at least a couple of hours – Sadly (or funnily) by doing something not-so-great.
A lot of numbers are expected to be higher for many popular events when compared to a few years ago, simply because more people are online and have access to it. What are the World Cup trends you’ve been following, for business or fun? Leave a comment if you found something else interesting or would like to know about other World Cup trends!