World Cup - 5th Participation


Whether you’re a sports fan or not, the FIFA World Cup is arguably the greatest show on earth! It attracts millions of fans, millions of cheers and millions of tears. And brands spend millions of dollars for a shot at leveraging this world class sporting event for brand exposure and connecting with football mega fans. In countries where the national team qualifies for the tournament, the marketing scene is a frenzy.

Just like the rest of the world, Saudis love their football. Historically, KSA has qualified for the World Cup four consecutive times since its debut in 1994, making it one of the top Arab countries in terms of participation. Unfortunately, 2014 was not a qualifying year for the Kingdom.

Mobily, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading telecoms providers, wanted in on the World Cup action. But without a national team to support, how could they ride the wave of football hype while connecting and engaging with local fans in a very Saudi way?


If there’s one thing Saudis are known for, apart from their love of football of course, it is their love of You Tube. With over 90 million daily views, Saudi Arabia has among the highest view rates in the world and is ranked #1 when it comes to mobile YouTube views.

All eyes in Saudi Arabia would be on the World Cup, yet the absence of the Saudi team limited the emotional involvement of the viewers and neglected consumer engagement.

Initiative knew from past World Cups that the entire media scene would be highly cluttered with hoards of advertisers competing for the same media space with little differentiation in terms of communication. It needed to find a unique way for Mobily to have a voice and stand out from the crowd.

YouTube provided the opportunity to create and share fresh engaging content related to the World Cup and tailored specifically for Saudi Arabia while giving Saudi residents a chance to interact, guide, and engage with the content developed.

It named the strategy ‘The Fifth Participation’ because the aim was to trigger a sense of Saudi Arabia’s fifth participation in the World Cup among Saudi fans. 


To get Saudi Arabia back into the World Cup game the agency reached out to Youseef, a comedic Saudi YouTube sensation and aspiring “Saudi Ronaldo”. It sent Youssef to Brazil along with a GoPro camera and one-man camera crew to document his World Cup journey.

Youssef was filmed taking to the streets of Brazil to interact with World Cup fans from around the world, while schooling them in a hilarious way about Saudi Arabia, its culture, foods and fashion, whilst also showing off his football skills. For example, there was footage of Youssef getting lost in Rio de Janeiro; convincing people to sample Arabic coffee whilst capturing their reactions; interviewing fans and asking them funny questions; competing with fans in light-hearted football challenges; and a host of other quirky and entertaining scenarios.

Once they had the video content, they needed to ensure Saudis were viewing it.

The agency partnered with Saudi social influencers to help make the videos go viral. They wrote articles and shared the video links with their followers.  The videos were also seeded on popular social media, focusing on platforms where videos can easily be shared. Blogs, forums, BBM groups, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts were flooded with “5th Participation” videos, along with teaser comments to build anticipation of Youssef’s upcoming video antics. Soon thereafter, the video series began trending.

Finally, Initiative promoted the videos on YouTube with pre-roll ads along with Google search, knowing that Saudis would soon be searching for more of the hilarious Youssef videos.


Positive response to the videos started from the moment posting began on Mobily’s YouTube channel, and it soon grew into one of the brand’s most successful campaigns:
- The videos generated a combined total of over 22 million views, 1,100% above a goal of 2 million
- Subscribers to Mobily’s YouTube channel increased from 10,000 to 225,000, making it the most subscribed telecom channel in the world and the #1 channel among brands in KSA
- VTRs (view through rates) were through the roof - many reaching over 35% and some as high as 46%  compared to YouTube’s global benchmark for ads of 19%
- Each of the 14 videos had at least 1 million views per video
- The videos earned heavy coverage on local TV and press which helped fuel a positive social media response – 16 million mentions, 96% positive and 375,000 likes on YouTube
- YouTube search for “mobily” related keywords increased by 16x
- Paid views resulted in a 135% increase in organic views
- 20% recall seeing Mobily ads during the World Cup.

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Saudi Arabia
June - July 2014
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