With the 2014 Fifa World Cup about to draw to a close this weekend, the attention of marketers, sponsors and advertisers will soon turn to the success – or otherwise – of the tournament as a promotional tool. Thus far, it seems that some brands have received more than they bargained for, while for others the apparent lack of return on investment may be concerning.

Social media, with its instant response and relative ease of measurement, provides an interesting yardstick as to the coverage that tournament sponsors and partners have received thus far. However, it must be borne in mind that coverage received via other mediums such as print and television, as well as the tournament’s impact on future product sales and brand enhancement, is harder to quantify.

South African digital consultancy 25AM has taken up the challenge of attempting to measure World Cup-related brand coverage by tracking and analysing more than 26-million social media conversations and specific mentions of each official sponsor and partner to test the value of their investments.

“Measuring the return on investment is a very real and contentious issue, as marketers are struggling to justify a solid return for the financial investment in social marketing, sponsorship and marketing in general,” says the consultancy’s Gordon Geldenhuys. “The explosion of activity on Twitter during the matches has been phenomenal, so it’s natural for some of the world’s biggest brands to spend huge sums of money in sponsorship to capitalise on this hype. But how do we quantify the return that they are getting for this sponsorship?

“Imagine how excited companies get to see their name clearly visible behind the gyrating Germans as they slam their seventh goal into the net. But if people still don’t talk about Yingli solar panels, Budweiser beer, Moy Park chickens and Continental tyres, maybe it’s not money well spent?”

Take Yingli, for instance, the Chinese-based solar panel company that paid an estimated US$17,5-million to be a World Cup sponsor. But, since Yingli enjoyed just 2 782 mentions via social media, that’s US$6 290 for every social media mention it received. Published yesterday (July 10), the figures in the study exclude any coverage generated by the final and third-place playoff games taking place this weekend.

McDonald’s enjoyed a far better bang for its buck than Yingli, with the burger company mentioned 2,7-million times by World Cup watchers. “In cost-per-mention terms, it cost McDonald’s just US$6.48 for every mention it received,” observes Geldenhuys, adding that this figure equates to the cost of two Big Macs each time someone mentions the company name on social media.

US beer brand Budweiser achieved a solid cost per mention of US$91.71 – equating to 11 beers per mention – while Moy Park, a UK-based poultry brand, incurred a much higher cost of US$4 932 per social mention, which amounts to 3 162 chickens per mention.

World Cup partner companies (partners are at the ‘primary’ tier’, while sponsors have a lesser involvement and are at the ‘secondary tier’) spent even more, pumping in an estimated US$34-million each. The 25AM study shows that Kia Motors fared the best with 118 146 mentions, while financial services brand Visa did not leverage the association as successfully, with just 5 653 mentions at US$6 000 a time.

Meanwhile, international soft drink brand 7 Up must be pleased at its unexpected social media windfall following Germany’s shock 7-1 win over Brazil. Social media came alive with referrals to the ‘7-up’ scoreline, which also spawned a number of jokes.

“Here’s a picture of Germany’s favourite drink”, said one tweet which showed a can of 7 Up and went viral worldwide. Another popular tweet observed that “Brazil have already signed a sponsorship deal with 7 Up for the 2018 World Cup” and was accompanied by a Brazilian soccer shirt with the 7 Up logo. There were also numerous photos of Brazilian star Neymar holding a can of the soft drink.