The Great World Cup Hangover

Football has not returned to its initial place of residence. Instead, it has boarded the Eurostar and is heading direct to Paris Gare du Nord.

Unfortunately, this nation’s appearance at a major tournament ran a course similar to others: initial cynicism, begrudging acceptance, rising hope, over-inflated expectations, and then the inevitable and crushing disappointment at being knocked out by a country with a population 6% the size of ours.

Yet, somehow this World Cup felt different, and seemed to give us more than the usual fanfare of tedious matches, prolonged commentary and WAGs. Russia 2018 had a voice and a style, propelled by an England manager whose cool-headed leadership and talent to inspire showed the very best of ‘the beautiful game’. This World Cup elevated not only the spirit of the nation, but the coverage and analysis too.

This week at MTM, we look at what this World Cup gave us – beyond M&S waistcoats and beer-soaked clothes.

England United  

In a world of personal on-demand entertainment, shared viewing is increasingly rare. Excluding royal parades or the ever-dwindling, yet still ubiquitous, talent competitions; sport has emerged as the last stalwart of shared entertainment.

The England Panama game in Russia, a match against a team with a population of just over 4 million, captured  . The semi-final against Croatia was the highest average audience for any football game with a whopping 24.3m, beaten only in peak viewing by Royal events, the Olympics, landing on the moon, and that time we actually did win the World Cup. These figures even omit the pub watchers, BBQers and the mournful crowd in Hyde Park (of which your writer was a part).

Sport – and in particular football – can demonstrably unite a nation. Stephen Nuttall, commercial and strategy advisor on sports and a former senior executive at YouTube and BSkyB, commented after the World Cup that: “top tier sports events have once again demonstrated their unique and sustained pulling power… you might wonder what the rest of the country was doing whilst everyone else was watching the football.”

Inter-activity

Yet the coverage of this world cup has extended far beyond the traditional TV set. The BBC’s virtual reality (VR) coverage offered fans the experience of viewing a game from a virtual hospitality box or from viewing points around the grandstands. Although met with initial scepticism, over 325k people downloaded the app in the UK, 15% of VR headset-owning adults: an impressive number for a nascent technology.

Interactive coverage was championed by publishers in other ways. The Guardian, Telegraph, Evening Standard and multiple other publications encouraged the public to rate players – employing this user-generated data to drive analysis. Offering this engaging forum for fans further enhanced the sense of interactivity at this World Cup and is part of a growing trend towards legacy publishers adopting user-generated content into editorial output. A study found that half of reports published by the BBC incorporated some form of user generated content.

What do you meme?

A prime example of the interactive potential of the World Cup has been the explosion of memes. From Neymar’s theatrics to Batshuayi’s unfortunate goal celebration, this world cup has provided a relentless stream of amusing vignettes. And it has driven engagement: a gag photo of Jesse Lingard on the phone to his mum was retweeted 90,000 times and liked by 313,000 people.

As a send-off to Russia 2018, the team at MTM have picked some of our favourites from the competition:

The battle-of-the-oppressor meme after hosts Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0:

The spiritual meme after Mexico’s shock defeat of Germany:

The unlikely duel of Simon Schama vs. Alan Shearer meme

The schadenfreude meme:

The I-haven’t-been-involved-in-a-world-cup-in-30-years-but-I’m-still-here meme:

The Harry Maguire gets shafted by teammate meme:

And, of course, the It’s Coming Home memes:

 

About Alex Milne Turner

Alex joined us in late 2016 and has worked across both the research and strategy teams, not quite being able to make up his mind. Alex is enthusiastic about MTM, and media in general, and about most other things. He has previously worked in television production and was involved with a lot of theatre at university, constantly rebelling against his degree in Philosophy, Politics & Economics.