Is FIFA deliberately kicking themselves out of the 2010 social media World Cup?

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South Africa 2010 is being billed as the ‘most social’ Football / Soccer World Cup of our generation.

However, if you have a dig around the official website for this year’s tournament, you don’t really get that impression – in fact, it almost seems like FIFA are ‘anti’ social media.

When assessing how ‘social’ an event is being pitched / marketed, the first stop is usually the website of the body in charge.

I spent about 10 minutes on http://www.fifa.com/worldcup home page (and subsequent pages) earlier today and couldn’t find any of the following:

– A link to an official FIFA Twitter account
– A link to an official FIFA Facebook page
– A RSS feed icon (although you will find one if you go to the media centre correction, there is a RSS feed icon on the home page, embedded under the news section, my apologies)
– A mention of the an official Twitter hashtag (#WC2010 seems to be the fan’s choice FYI – even   whatthehashtag.com doesn’t feature an explanation)

Note: There is no obvious YouTube link either but this is probably down to rights holders / contracts as opposed to a willingness to use that platform.

This is in stark contrast to most of the other major sporting events / bodies operating in 2010.

Just a couple months ago I looked at the NCAA Basketball Tournament (aka March Madness) via a blog post and discovered that they were doing a pretty decent job.

Most importantly, the very basics i.e. clearly signposted icons linking visitors to social media platforms, were clearly visible (see below).


Google

The next obvious stop is Google – perhaps the almighty search engine could direct me to the official social media properties of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

I conducted a simple test search: “2010 FIFA World Cup on Twitter”.

The top five results that came back were:

http://twitter.com/fifaworldcupsa – A ‘FIFA’ World Cup account (but not one that appears ‘official’)

http://twitter.com/2010oc – The SA 2010 Oranising Committee account

http://twitter.com/fifaworldcuptm – This appears to be the ‘real thing’ but it’s not verified and without a link on FIFA.com pointing me to it, I am somewhat dubious.

http://twitter.com/FIFA_news  – This took a little extra effort to find but appears officially ‘official’

http://twitter.com/2010FIFAcup – Another account using the tournament logo and FIFA name, but doesn’t appear to be official

With the recent events surrounding @BPGlobalPR and various similar instances, trusting Twitter accounts is becoming more and more difficult.

The most obvious way to get around that is to feature blatantly obvious links from official websites or to have accounts verified.

What’s the score?

If I was to put my ‘fan’ hat on, I’d be a little confused.

Not just because FIFA appear to be making it particularly challenging for me to follow the tournament via the platforms I am immersed in everyday, but the official tournament sponsors seems to be doing LOADS.

For a comprehensive summary of what FIFA’s sponsors are doing around this World Cup, click here.

After having worked with the Cricket Australia for many years, I know how much sponsors attempt to own as many properties as possible – or, at the very least, conduct activity that is very different to the other associated partners.

Even at my most cynical, I can’t imagine FIFA is taking a gentle approach to social media because of sponsor rights / deals.

It just seems odd…very odd.

Best in class?

If you take a look at some of the other leading sporting bodies around the world, you’ll see how much they have embraced social media.

The NBA is probably the best example.

More than 2.5 million people ‘like’ the NBA on Facebook.

Nearly 2 million people follow the NBA on Twitter.

NBA.com even has an official guide to Twitter featuring current and former players, commentators, teams and much more.

Why is this so perplexing?

Without knowing the ins and outs of FIFA, I don’t really think I or anyone else is in a position to throw stones.

There may be a perfectly logical explanation (or an even more compelling commercial reason).

But, with less than a week to go until the greatest sporting event in the world begins, I am curious as to why these basics haven’t been covered off.

My hope is the heatwave currently smothering Europe is the reason I can’t find what I was looking for at FIFA.com – maybe you’ll log on tomorrow and the Twitter and Facebook icons will smack you right in the face?

If you do have the answers to any of these questions please let me know (especially as I am more than five months into my ‘newspaper-less’ experiment and keeping up with the World Cup via social media is my only ticket to the dance this year).

It is still very (very) early days for social media, especially for global organisations often constricted by layers of approvals, so I don’t think we can be too hard on who’s in charge of social media at FIFA…but a couple of icons and some direction as to official accounts would be super!!

Adam

Notes:

This post is a prelude to the next edition of #CommsChat which takes place on Monday 7 June 2010 at 8pm UK time.

This week’s topic is: The most social FIFA World Cup of our generation – what does it mean for communicators?

You can follow #CommsChat on Twitter via @CommsChat or on Facebook

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8 Comments

  • Reply June 6, 2010

    genericbox

    It depends in what context you are using ‘social’. FIFA may be anti-social media (and after hunting across the website for any links you could agree), but they have made undeniable contributions to social issues in South Africa.

    But I understand this may have just been a segway and I am nitpicking 🙂

  • Reply June 6, 2010

    Adam Vincenzini

    I think it’s pretty clear that I am referring to social media only, not anti social behaviour..
    FIFA have done a tremendous job re: social responsibility over many years now – not just in South Africa, and they deserve to be commended for that.

  • Reply June 6, 2010

    Graytuna

    I know that newspapers, TV-Channels and websites here in Sweden will use social media a lot during the world cup – Actually more than ever before. It is of course going to be a bit strange for FIFA indeed, to be left out.

    I think people will chose to connect to their “Local” social media platforms (For eg. a sport-channels official twitter hashtag) instead of trying to find FIFAs official.

    Love your approach Adam within this blog post + CommsChat. Keep up ! 🙂

  • Reply June 6, 2010

    Lauren Fernandez

    Without knowing the ins and outs (and since Im cynical when it comes to sports orgs and social) I think I can’t pass judgment too harshly on whether they are or are not doing it correctly.

    The pain point here is that FIFA has a tremendous opportunity to hit a large market with little buy-in needed. They have the support, recognition and event to push across multiple platforms. Even bigger: The untapped US market, because many tune in only once every four years to the World Cup. Domestic support is sporadic.

    They have the potential to leverage with players who use social (and their fans) with the US Swimming type model (They used Phelps extensively leading up to and after the ’08 Olympics, and numbers skyrocketed for membership into the club).

    Thing is? They aren’t doing it. It’s a space they might not understand, so they a.) can’t regulate their sponsors and b.) see it as a funnel up type model v. funnel down.

    Twitter is terrible about verifying any accounts, so maybe they are trying. I wonder if this type of tournament is better off being promoted via country (ie, Fan pages, player pages, etc) vs. an overall FIFA approach.

  • Reply June 7, 2010

    Shane

    Nice post Adam, just seems to reiterate the fact that most big organizations do not understand Social Media and how it can actually benefit them. While you may consider this edition of the FIFA World Cup as the most social one in our generation, it may be only social for the soccer fans online or alternate smarter firms who decide to share, create content but not to the body behind the actual event.

    Will be interesting to see how CommsChat goes but my view is the lack of an official FIFA SM presence allows smarter communicators to perhaps “hijack” the event socially and connect with the fans thus leveraging it towards their benefit.

  • Reply June 7, 2010

    Danny Whatmough

    There might be a commercial issue here. FIFA has all sorts of agreements with various media companies and sponsors etc., so maybe they don’t want to be seen to be stepping on any toes?

  • Reply June 7, 2010

    Katelyn Mashburn

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks for the great post, and I enjoyed the comparison to how the NBA uses social media. It’s also interesting to compare the way the Winter Olympics managed its social media, since it is a International event that also occurs every four years. Similarly, its Web site neglected to include links to its social media sites. However, Team USA’s Web site easily directs its viewers to its social media sites through icons on the homepage. It appears that the Olympics also left social media up to sponsors and individual countries.

    Thanks for the great insight, and it will be interesting to see how people engage via social networks throughout the World Cup.

    As for this Saturday: Go USA!

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