Social Networks

Tech Starred in Brazil World Cup

The World Cup in Brazil is over and while nobody can pretend that it’s much of a consolation to the hosts, the near-universal consensus is that this was a superb competition, smoothly run and, most likely, the most technologically-enabled and tech-assisted sporting event in history. Of course, you could look (as many did) at the World Cup as an event Brazil could ill afford, given its large-scale issues with poverty and social justice, but the event itself was spectacular.

Nobody will forget that this was the competition that saw Brazil humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals in a game that garnered a TV audience of 32.6 million in Germany, 14 million in the UK, 12.4 million in the US. Brazilian viewing figures were delayed, perhaps in shame.

The tournament regularly smashed through TV viewing records as a glut of goals, surprises and controversy kept excitement to fever pitch throughout. It was helped by “second-screen viewing”, the name given by media watchers to the trend whereby viewers supplement their enjoyment of games with tablets, smartphones and other devices where they can view relevant data, watch another game or participate in social media discussions.

The traumatic Brazil-Germany encounter saw Twitter become consumed in comments as the home team conceded again and again (and again and again and again and again). At its peak (Khedira’s goal for Germany’s fifth) the game generated over 58,000 tweets per minute. In terms of social media teams, Twitter had an outstanding World Cup with heat maps, prominent score-line updates and ‘hash flags’ that promoted tribal national adherence. And of course there was the usual gallows humour and mockery with hashtags like #ThingMoreLikelyThanBrazilWinningTheWorldCup and #TeamsBetterThanBrazil trending. All this saw the World Cup cruise by the US Superbowl in Twitter traffic and Facebook also took advantage of the mania to cash in. The numbers are remarkable in that it is not so very long since Orkut was among Brazil’s leading networks. How times change: Google closed down the service weeks ago.

Other forms of technology also were positive and there was a milestone reached when a France goal against Honduras was adjudged to have crossed the goal line meaning it could be legitimately given. However, the communicating of the decision could have been sharper.

It was also a fine World Cup for Big Data as both Microsoft’s and Google’s predictive technologies had flawless records in predicting the winners of elimination games. Meanwhile, companies like Snapchat showed some PR initiative by presenting new(ish) features like My Story. And of course there were the usual (and unusual) spinoff stories such as Tinder dating app usage swelling as fans from across the world converged on Brazil.

Broadcasters also enjoyed a good World Cup, not only because of large audiences but with terrific camera angles that gave 4K and 8K big-screen viewers in particular a great, cinema-like game experience. The final was even captured using 360-degree technology and will be shown at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich, Switzerland. In the future, sport broadcasting experts have predicted, the average viewer will be able to watch matches as if at their favourite seat in the ground with full audio-visual effects that provide a sensory experience close to actually being there. Preferably without the ignorant comments and body odour of bores…

Technology even had its impact on the field with high-tech boot, shirt and ball designs and even ingenious vanishing spray to mark where players could stand and so on. Of course, technology always plays a big part in the World Cup and other major tournaments, from security scanning to policing to communications. But as more of the world obsesses over football with huge markets like the US, India and China having enormous overhead for growth, it’s likely that more records will follow.

However, even technology has its limits and not just in terms of hacktivists bringing down the official World Cup website. Much was made of one team’s players being given an app to provide them smart insights into the opposition. That team went home early after failing to win a single game. Never mind, England, there’s always 2018. Or 2022 or 2026…


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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