The 10 World Cup Sponsors That Grew the Most in Followers, Fans and Subscribers

Adidas Won Big, But Non-Sponsor Nike Was Close Behind

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What did FIFA World Cup sponsors get out of their association with the global event? In some cases it's obvious, as various video campaigns created for the tournament have racked up hundreds of millions of views. But then again, many of those views actually went to non-sponsors: Nike, not an official sponsor of the tournament itself, soundly defeated sponsor Adidas by that measure. So, as the dust settles, we're taking a look at another measure of success: the growth in the brands' social-media communities.

For this chart, Ad Age worked with ListenFirst, a New York social analytics and strategy shop, to examine the growth in Facebook fans, YouTube subscribers and Twitter and Instagram followers among the big brands that backed the 2014 World Cup. Scroll down below the graphic for more notes and context.

• ListenFirst tracked both absolute and relative growth. First, it monitored each brand's average social-community growth before the World Cup to establish as a baseline. Then the ListenFirst team measured how brands grew their social followings during the tournament relative to their usual, pre-World Cup growth rate to arrive at the weighted scores you see in our chart.

• Notably, non-sponsor Nike -- which, as noted above, crashed the World Cup conversation with highly viral YouTube videos -- outdid all but Adidas in social-community growth.

• Among the breakthrough campaigns: Adidas' @brazuca Twitter account ("I'm @brazuca. The official match ball of the 2014 FIFA #WorldCup. I tweet in English & Portuguese. Love me or lose me! Oh, and follow me. #ballin"), which closed out the tournament with nearly 3.5 million followers -- 2.8 million of them coming on board only after the World Cup kicked off on June 12.

• Adidas ended up being the most talked-about brand on Twitter during the World Cup, and, according to ListenFirst's analysis, it far outpaced its fellow tournament sponsors in cross-platform community growth -- with Coca-Cola, Sony, Visa and McDonald's rounding out the top five, in that order.

• "More than ever before," says ListenFirst co-founder and Co-CEO Jason Klein, "this year's World Cup forced brands to think beyond a single platform and instead take a cross-channel approach to engaging fans throughout the tournament. And while it was hard to stand out in a slew of hashtags, promoted posts and custom-built microsites, there were hallmark campaigns on each channel that really rose above the noise."

• The endgame? "For brands that poured millions of dollars into reaching fans during this year's FIFA World Cup," says Klein, "social-community growth is an important barometer for success. After all, long after the last goal was scored, brands that gained a significant number of new fans in the 31-day tournament now have the ability to tap into this audience year-round."

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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