The opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is still 11 months away, but Twitter is already mobilizing to sell lucrative ad packages pegged to it.
Setting up its own version of an upfront market, Twitter will be conducting a blind auction overseen by PricewaterhouseCoopers to sell promoted trends later this month, according to a sales deck obtained by Ad Age. It's the first time Twitter has set up an auction specifically for a tentpole event and an indication of how it will sell scarce inventory connected to events like the Olympics, the Oscars or the Super Bowl in the future.
Promoted trends appear atop the list of terms that are trending on Twitter and are the only ad unit that must be bought out for an entire market for a day for a flat fee, whereas promoted tweets and accounts are regularly purchased at auction and targeted to specific segments. Because of their national scale, promoted trends are also the closest thing Twitter has to a homepage ad on, say Yahoo or YouTube.
The last reported price to claim a daily promoted trend in the U.S. was $200,000. But the four available World Cup packages -- a "gold", a "silver" and two "bronze" -- are designed to have global reach, meaning that the winner will own the day's promoted trends in 50 countries. And the estimated value of that worldwide buy by the time next summer comes around is $600,000, according to the document.
Twitter declined to comment on the auction. But its haste in setting it up is easily explained by the fact that global brands are already developing marketing plans and starting to commit spend for the World Cup. It shows that real-time marketing is a bit of a misnomer: for big events it must be planned well in advance.
Given the limited availability of promoted trends, an auction starts to look like the fairest way of parsing them out -- and possibly the most lucrative.
"With over 200M users, and 47M football fans, we are aware that competition for Twitter Promoted Trend dates is likely to be intense," the sales deck states. "As inventory is limited, Twitter will be opening these Promoted Trend positions to a blind auction process available to all advertisers."
As part of the auction, the winner will pay the value of the second-highest bid plus $1. How much Twitter stands to make from the process obviously depends how many so-called "trends" marketers find valuable. But the reserve prices -- or the prices at which Twitter reserves the right to release the promoted-trend dates back to the market -- provided in the document indicate the minimum it's willing to accept.
For example, the gold package includes six promoted trends to run on six days, including the dates of the final game and one of the semi-final games. Its ratecard value is $3.6 million, given the assumption that global promoted trends will be sold for $600,000 next summer. Its reserve price is $3.06 million.
All together, the reserve price of the four packages comprising 16 promoted trends is $8.16 million, which essentially represents the minimum Twitter will accept. The ratecard value that uses the $600,000 global promoted trend price tag is $9.6 million.
For context, eMarketer expects Twitter's ad revenue to reach $950 million next year, so the baseline value of these World Cup ad packages is about 1% of that. But that doesn't include any of the real-time marketing that brands will employ using promoted tweets during the month-long event. One can assume that official World Cup sponsors and non-sponsors alike will seize on Twitter to capitalize on the chatter.
The auction for the gold package is set to take place on July 25, while the auctions for the silver and bronze packages are slated for July 30, according to the document.