Jul 9, 2014

Competing with the World Cup for Subscribers’ Attention

The 2014 World Cup is underway, and chances are you’ve watched a game or two or ten. (Maybe the insane Germany/Brazil match yesterday?) At the very least, you’ve heard someone shouting “Goooooooalllll!!!!” in an adjacent room.

With an event this big, the world pays attention. And that means the world isn’t paying attention to other things. Like caloriesdata caps, and, of course, email marketing.

We decided to look at MailChimp campaigns to see how user activity and recipient engagement might have been impacted by major games. Since 60% of MailChimp’s 6 million customers live outside the US, we saw all sorts of fluctuations during matches.

The charts below show the percentage of campaigns sent or engagement achieved each hour of the game day, compared to what’s typical for that day of the week for that country. The yellow windows show the approximate time period of the game. (We’re using UTC here.)

June 12: Opening ceremony and Brazil vs. Croatia

In addition to hosting this year’s World Cup, Brazil has won the Cup five times, more than any other national team. It’s also the only team to have qualified for and played in every single World Cup without absence. With its large population (close to 200 million) and high percentage of people using the internet (48.56%), Brazil is also a significant presence online. In fact, MailChimp’s Brazilian customer base has increased by 115%—from around 64,000 to around 138,000—in the last year alone.

MailChimp usage from Brazil on Thursdays usually sees two moderate peaks with 8-10% of the day’s sends per hour, but the first day of the World Cup saw a significant shift to one large 14% peak earlier in the day and almost no activity during the opening ceremony and first game. We like to think everyone got their work done early, rather than not at all (ahem).


Recipient engagement, measured in clicks, saw a similar shift to earlier in the day, but with a more pronounced peak right before the game. It’s also worth noting that the total number of clicks in Brazil on June 12 was only 61% of the average of the previous four Thursdays.


June 13: Mexico vs. Cameroon

Because Mexico is located to the west of Brazil, World Cup games occur even earlier in the work day. Below, we can see the impact of Mexico’s first game against Cameroon on send times for Mexican MailChimp users. After the usual 9% rate of campaigns sent dipped significantly to 5% during game time, there was an impressive post-game rebound to more than 10%.


Clicks in Mexico didn’t see the same peaks before and after the game, however. The time of day where we usually see the most engagement coincided with the beginning of the game and was reduced from 9% of clicks to 5%.


June 26: USA vs. Germany

Although soccer isn’t as big in the States as it is in many other countries, the sport is picking up steam. The USA vs. Germany game is a prime example of the sport’s increasing popularity stateside—millions of people streamed the game at their desks or left work altogether to watch it. How did that impact sending activity? Well, we saw 1.5% of our campaigns sent shift from game time to hours before and after the game. That’s about 2.5 million emails! (Incidentally, if my boss asks, I had a doctor’s appointment on June 26.)


Clicks also saw a relatively small drop during the game, followed by the same slight rebound seen in sends. The impact on parts of the day further away from the game was almost nonexistent, so senders should expect to see typical engagement when not sending around game time for soccer in the US.


What does it all mean?

Major events like the World Cup have a significant impact on email traffic and engagement. Not only are there significant dips during the games, but there is typically an inflated peak just before the game and a rebound after the game. Campaigns sent during the game might suffer, and campaigns sent just before and after the game might get lost in a sea of other unread email.

Your best bet, as always, is to be considerate of your subscribers’ locations and time zones, write powerful subject lines, and write emails that people want to read. It also might not hurt to share your major announcements the day before or after your subscribers’ home teams are playing the most important game of the year. Or, take a tip from Billy Reid, and purposefully announce a sale between games when your customers are poking around on the internet, looking to kill some time. Maybe they’ll spend that time—and money—on you.