Top of Mind

What we're thinking about right now.

We’re all ardent sports fans at The Realtime Project and we know we’re not the only ones counting the days until the start of the World Cup in South Africa on June 11. This time around, we aren’t just looking forward to the football (soccer for you Yanks), which is the raison d’etre of the tournament.

We’re also hugely excited because, thanks to warp-speed advances in technology since the 2006 World Cup (and even since the 2008 Olympics), this will be the first major sporting event to be experienced in “realtime.” And we can’t wait to see how this plays out in the course of the month-long tournament.

The whole concept of realtime is based around using mobile, the Internet, multimedia and other modern technologies to create a multi-sensory, context-aware, interactive and social experience between brands (both personal and corporate) and the consumer. It stands to reason, then, that the World Cup, with teams and fans from 32 countries descending for a month-long party, is an ideal test bed for realtime technologies.

The question is: to what degree, and how well, will the players, teams, sponsors and traditional media leverage these new capabilities to raise awareness of their brands and encourage social engagement? The Realtime Project will be examining these issues in the course of the next few weeks, and we look forward to sharing our insights with you.

On the most basic level, we’re already getting a glimpse of realtime’s potential in this sphere. If you fancy a flutter, online betting sites such as show the odds for each team, and post changes to those odds in realtime as word of injuries and other pre-match developments occur. FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and many of the teams from each country, have set up fan sites on Facebook.

Pre-tournament, these fan sites seem little more than place holders, waiting for the initial kickoff so someone can post a substantive discussion topic. After all, there are only so many times that one can ask who others think will win, or surmise how far a team will progress. It will be interesting to see if these sites become lively discussion forums once the tournament starts, or if fans focus their attention elsewhere for “as-it-happens” interaction.

Microblogging site Twitter didn’t have much traction at the last World Cup, but will certainly loom large in South Africa. In fact, the Twitosphere is already buzzing with World Cup snippets and this will intensify during the tournament. Twitter has proved such a popular means of realtime communication that teams, players, sponsors, fans at the the tournament and viewers across the globe will be able to share their own play-by-play views on the matches with their followers in an instant.

Broadcasters, meanwhile, have set up dedicated World Cup websites to provide live-streaming of the games, so if you’re a die-hard footie fan, you needn’t miss a moment of the action. Spanish language channel Univision will be live-streaming all 64 matches. ESPN, meanwhile, has pulled out all the stops–one reason why it’s been named one of’s “Top 6 Free World Cup iPhone Apps“. The channel will be streaming 54 of the games live via its portal in English, Arabic and four additional languages. ESPN3 will also integrate a “chat” facility and incorporate Twitter and Facebook–all of which will enable fans to interact with each other online during the games.

England fans, however, are out of luck if they were counting on Twitter to get “behind the scenes” insight about their team and its performance. Coach Fabio Capello has banned the squad from using social networking sites so the team stays focused on the game.

So far, so realtime. This just scratches the surface of what we’ll be monitoring over the next month of footie madness. Next up, we’ll be looking at how some of the tournament’s biggest sponsors are employing realtime applications to raise brand awareness with fans on the ground and at home alike.

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