The 2010 World Cup will have the world abuzz once again with soccer fever and the passionate displays of nationalism that accompany it. And brands are going to be paying attention to that fervor -- for obvious reasons.
This summer, ESPN will undertake one of the most ambitious efforts ever to track media consumption. If the cable network succeeds, it could usher in an entire new era of understanding how, and calculating how many, viewers consume specific media in a fragmented age.
To accomplish its goal, ESPN will work with several research firms and the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative. The team will also include the TouchPoints system, developed to measure unduplicated cross-platform audience reach. Additionally, modified "diary" iPhones will track individual media use.
Ad Age breaks down exactly how ESPN plans to accomplish this massive task and delegate certain areas of the effort to respective organizations according to expertise:
"...Knowledge Networks will mirror the work of the Media Behavior Institute to an extent by measuring weekly and total exposure to the World Cup across all platforms, including live, time-shifted and out-of home. Keller Fay Group will measure changes in the volume and tone of word-of-mouth conversations related to brands sponsoring ESPN World Cup content. Nielsen Co. will, in addition to the electronic mobile monitoring, provide a fusion of TV, web and mobile also using its s TV and online measurement panels. The Wharton Interactive Media Initiative will collect and analyze ESPN's internet and mobile server data to take a different look and prepare a separate analysis of digital audiences..."
ESPN's ambitious plans follows similar attempts by NBC to track consumption of its Vancouver Olympic events and by CBS to give a better viewership picture of its "March Madness" NCAA basketball tournament.
The ramifications of ESPN's sweeping objectives could be huge.
When it comes to media measurement, ESPN's goal exceeds far beyond what almost any other analytics group has yet to accomplish. Of the potential outcome, ESPN vice president of integrated media research offered the following understatement: "We're going to learn a lot of great things... We're going to learn a lot of things that don't work, which is also going to be interesting to advertisers." ESPN also says its results will be open to audit.
So as you watch your favorite team play in the World Cup, remember, ESPN will be watching you.