World Cup 2022: How to prepare for the most digital World Cup – Think with Google

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The World Cup gets plenty of attention in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 — kicking off in November — will see the sporting spectacle taking place in the Middle East for the first time, with interest likely reaching fever pitch.
New Google and YouTube insights suggest regional football fans are already pumped, getting the ball rolling on 2022 World Cup-related searches since 2021:
Source: Google internal data, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, 2021.
Interest on YouTube around the FIFA World Cup continues to grow too, with search interest around this year’s event already surpassing 2018’s by 80%.1 And more searches mean more viewing. In fact, the 2022 event could see watchtime soar by more than around 30%, reaching about 300 million people.2
Here are three need-to-knows to help your brand kick off for what is looking to be the most digital World Cup ever:
After years of not being able to watch sports in-person, people are itching to get back to live matches. While this may also be true for World Cup Qatar 2022, historical data suggests a growing rise in online versus offline interest.
The online offering of the 2018 FIFA World Cup far surpassed its offline one, for example. While the event welcomed three million in-person match attendees, it saw three billion Google searches3, and five billion World Cup-related views on YouTube4.
Source: FIFA World Cup Russia report, and Google and YouTube internal data, Global, 2018.
This year’s event will likely stockpile a massive amount of digital content, if previous World Cups are anything to go by. The month-long 2018 World Cup, for example, showcased 64 live matches, generating around 110 hours of match content, equal to about five days of watchtime. That match content, however, generated 230 million hours of YouTube watchtime, equal to 26,000 years’ worth.5
People in the Middle East and North Africa contributed to 7% of that watchtime, particularly those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.6 In fact those two countries ranked among the top ten globally when it comes to football viewership,7 boasting the highest watchtime between 2018 and 2022.8
And data from the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup — which was watched online 29 million times9 — reveals that while a match lasts offline for an hour and a half, it lives on YouTube for more than 15 hours that day.10 That’s because supporters are watching and rewatching matches, as well as before and after moments.
Seventy-eight percent of viewers in MENA say YouTube offers sports content that can’t be found anywhere else.12 This is particularly true for football, famous for its guarded official coverage. It’s no surprise then that Arabic football creators, like Saba7o Kora and Mohamed Adnan boast some of the highest-viewed videos:

Standing out among catchy content means understanding what your audiences watch. But not all content is born the same. MENA fans get their football fix from:
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1 YouTube internal data, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, World Cup-related searches, 2017–2021.
2 Google Trends, Global, Youtube internal data on views related to World Cup and viewership related to football, 2019–2021.
3, 4 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia report, and Google and YouTube internal data, Global, 2018.
5 Google internal data, Global, 2018.
6 YouTube internal data, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, Watchtime of World Cup views, 2018.
7 Google internal data, Global, Search volume related to World Cup & YouTube viewership related to football, 2019–2021.
8 YouTube, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, Watchtime of football content, 2018–2022.
9 YouTube internal data, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and UAE, 30 Nov. 2021–18 Dec. 2021.
10 Google internal data, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, Hourly progression, indexed views, and videos related to Arab Cup, 1 Nov. 2021–16 Dec. 2021.
11 YouTube, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, Watchtime of World Cup content, 2018.
12 Google/ISG, U.S., Global Audiences Study, n=553 millennials (ages 23–38), Jan. 2020.
13 YouTube internal data, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, Views of football-related content, 2021.
14 Google/Talk Shoppe, WhyVideo study, UAE, Saudi Arabia, 2021.
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