The four-year wait for the World Cup is almost over, and fans want related content. Globally, searches for “FIFA World Cup 2022” are up nearly 300% from last year, according to Semrush data.
As die-hard fans and casual viewers alike prepare for one of sport’s largest events, how can brands, marketers, streamers, platforms, and broadcasters get in on the buzz?
Analyzing the media landscape of the 28-day football (or soccer) tournament tells us how and why audiences are drawn to the event. We can break down the popularity of certain players and sponsors, tourism trends, and gender and age demographics, painting a broader picture of the people who care about this tournament and what motivates them.
This is critical information for marketers who want to leverage the popularity of the 2022 Qatar World Cup to make gains in their own online visibility.
Whispers of potential retirement drive celebrity buzz
Ahead of what could be their last World Cup, celebrity players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are massively popular in online searches — even more so than the last World Cup in 2018. The intrigue of celebrity athletes only heightens when fans feel they might be watching their last World Cup play.
For audiences searching these players’ names, a few motivations are at play. There is lots of curiosity around whether or not the Qatar FIFA World Cup will in fact be the last dance for these two football icons — 35-year-old Messi has confirmed this will be his final World Cup, while 37-year-old Ronaldo said it “could be” his last.
Additionally, suspense is running high as neither of these two superstars has won the World Cup during their tenure on their national teams, making Qatar their last chance at the ultimate prize. Brands can capitalize on this moment by being part of the hot conversation of what lies ahead for these two powerhouses.
In addition to the world’s two most famous — and arguably best of all time — players, other athletes are also experiencing strong online search numbers ahead of the games in Qatar. Hailing from the team with the most World Cup wins, Brazilian player Neymar trails shortly behind Messi in search query traffic. And Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema are also seeing spikes in searches, hot off of last Cup’s win for France.
Pedri, Antony, and Harry Maguire have seen search query traffic increase by over 1,000% since the 2018 tournament, signaling the rising stars of tomorrow once today’s heavy hitters throw in the towel. But for Maguire, much of these online searches are likely related to his blunders for Manchester United this season — despite his captain status — and the controversy over starting him on England’s team at the World Cup given his weak performance of late.
Sponsors in food and travel enjoy boosted traffic
In addition to celebrity athletes, the upcoming Qatar 2022 World Cup is spurring online interest in business and tourism. Of the tournament’s array of sponsors, McDonald’s is among the leaders when it comes to increased online searches. Growing 93% from last year’s monthly average and more than tripling from 2020, global searches for McDonald’s are already booming ahead of the event.
In addition to the international fast-food chain, World Cup sponsors in the travel industry are also seeing spikes. Searches for Qatar Airways, one of the tournament’s corporate sponsors, have increased by 53.75% since last year.
Non-branded tourism keywords are also rising. Global searches for “flights to Qatar” are up by more than 70% from last year, and searches for “cheap flights to Qatar” have grown by more than 137%. While some users might be trying to go to the World Cup itself, it’s likely that the country’s publicity ahead of the tournament is also driving general interest in Qatar tourism.
Gender gaps persist but show signs of change
Semrush data shows that interest in the Qatar 2022 World Cup is not evenly distributed across genders. More than 60% of visitors to World Cup-related sites are male, signaling that the majority of web activity surrounding the tournament is coming from men.
Women’s interest in the World Cup is still notable as brands try to find ways to capitalize on the event. According to Nielsen, women are more interested in the FIFA World Cup than any other global football competition. Communicating directly with women can help brands make incremental gains with audiences who may feel ignored by most of the messaging surrounding the tournament.
Stateside, this year’s searches for “United States women's national soccer team” dwarf the number of searches for the men’s team — a trend that’s been going strong for many years now. And the Twitter audience for the US women’s team outperforms the men’s as well. Even more notable is that Alex Morgan, recent captain of the US women’s national team, is seeing more monthly searches this year than the most-searched US men’s player, Christain Pulisic. This is true despite the fact that the men’s team will play in the World Cup this year, while the women’s team is not playing the major tournament this year. So while the global football landscape is male dominated, American support skews toward the country’s women’s soccer team.
In addition to trends in gender distribution, age is also a notable factor in the landscape of online World Cup interest. According to Semrush data, 30% of users visiting World Cup-related sites are between the ages of 25 and 34, representing more interest than any other age group.
When it comes to incorporating the World Cup’s internet trends into marketing strategies, brands should pay attention to the themes that audiences are drawn to ahead of the global event. Tools like Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool and Semrush .Trends data can help companies understand trends in internet behavior — and are the very same tools used to source Semrush’s World Cup data.
With the World Cup claiming the highest awareness of any sporting event in the world, marketers should seize the opportunity to leverage this awareness for their own brands. And looking ahead, searches for “World Cup 2026” are already up 124% from last year. It’s never too early to start planning timely content to boost your online visibility.
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