How Brands and Searchers Prepared for the World Cup

How Brands and Searchers Prepared for the World Cup

The long wait is finally over

On Sunday 20th November, Qatar and Ecuador kicked off the FIFA World Cup, with 32 nations battling for football’s ultimate prize.

Having been awarded to hosts Qatar, the tournament has become the first-ever finals played during winter months for the Northern Hemisphere.

It is being played in the winter because of the country’s extreme heat conditions in the usual summer months, which has meant that supporters, brands and teams have had to wait longer than normal for the event. 

In addition to the unusual feel of a winter World Cup, other factors have made this year’s competition feel a little bit different.

The hosts Qatar, who were awarded the under a dark cloud after allegations of corruption in the voting process have also been criticised by many highlighting Human Rights issues, in particular, its treatment of LGBTQIA+ people and the working conditions of migrant workers who were involved in building the stadiums.

In this article, we will look at how Google has added new features for fans to consume the action. We will also explore the global search trends and the stances different brands and influencers are making in the moral maze.

The new features on Google

Describing it as the ‘most digital World Cup ever’, Google has unveiled a range of new features that it has made in Search, YouTube and other areas. 

When searching ‘World Cup’ or similar, users will land on a page that will look and feel familiar to other previous event landing pages, but the page will now allow users to subscribe to tournament notifications, as well as individual team notifications. 

Users also have the option to pin a live match score to their home screen, removing the need to search for the score – perfect for keeping track of events unfolding whilst glued to your work screen.

As well as this, Google has partnered with official broadcasters like the BBC to show daily video recaps, making it easy to catch up with the key moments.

Within the browser, there is an additional game that will allow you to pick a team and score as many goals as you can, with your score contributing to a global total.

Finally, to help individual businesses, companies will have the option to tick a label to help users discover places that are showing the games. These will appear when searches like ‘watch world cup near me’.

Source: Google Search

The Searching Trends

Google is predicting that interest in the World Cup will rise from the data in 2018. 

During the World Cup four years ago over 3 million people attended the matches in person, but over 3 billion searched the World Cup on Youtube and that resulted in over 5 billion views. 

Search volume has also increased from the previous tournament, with SEMRush reporting that ‘World Cup 2022’ has been receiving a total of 2 million searches per month on average for the year.

Source: SEMRush

In what could be the last World Cup finals for two of the best players ever to play the game, individual player search trends have also been up in the past 12 months. 

In 2022, Cristiano Ronaldo was searched for a total of 13 million times, with Lionel Messi having the second-highest number of searches with 8 million.

Elsewhere, the top five most searched players are Neymar(6 m), Kyllian Mbappe(2.7 m) and Robert Lewandowski (2.5 m).

Source: SEMRush

However, the wider context of hosting a tournament in a country that has been criticised for its human rights records, including the treatment of migrant workers building the stadiums and the LGBTQIA+ community has resulted in a trend of searches around these subjects.

Sportswashing, a term used to describe the practice of individuals, groups, corporations, or governments using sports to improve reputations, has seen an upturn in search trends, especially in the 12 months leading up to the finals.

Source: Google Trends

‘Qatar Human Rights’ is also a search term that more people have been searching, which shows that much of the world is not just focusing on football, but the wider geopolitical landscape.

Source: Google Trends

How the brands and influencers are reacting

Unlike previous editions of the FIFA World Cup, many companies, celebrities and other organisations are being a bit more cautious with associating themselves with the Qatar-held event. 

In total, partners have spent a collective £960 million in order to partner with FIFA for the World Cup, but Qatar’s rules around the consumption of alcohol have led to Budweiser being unable to sell their product in and around stadiums.

In response to this, Budweiser has announced that it will donate the beer it can’t sell to the winning country of the tournament – leading to many on social media calling for their team to deliberately get eliminated.

Crates of unsold Budweiser in Qatar

Another beer brand Brewdog has received a mixed reception for an ‘anti-World Cup’ campaign, with profits from their new ‘Lost Lager’ going towards fighting human rights abuse.

After promoting the new beer, and calling themselves the ‘Anti-Sponsor of the World Cup’ they have been heavily criticised for screening the games in their bars. 

The announcements made on social media received a lot of backlash, with Brewdog being accused of hypocrisy, with Brewdog defending their decision to show the games as they don’t want to stop people from watching the football.

And it isn’t just companies who have been on the receiving end of public and moral outrage. Having previously campaigned for the World Cup in 2022 to be hosted in England and Wales, former footballer David Beckham has taken up a lucrative role as an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup.

Comedian Joe Lycett responded to this with a very public publicity stunt pleading with Beckham to end his sponsorship deal with the country, promising to donate £10,000 of his own money to LGBTQIA+ charities – and if he didn’t he was going to shred the money.

David Beckham or his team didn’t respond to the request, and the comedian later appeared to shred the money – he later announced that it wasn’t real money and that he had already donated the cash to charities, but the stunt attracted the attention of millions.

In conclusion, the general consensus is that this doesn’t feel like a normal World Cup, and this has been reflected in user search behaviour and the uncertainty from brands about what stance to take, which has taken gloss away from the big event.

But Google has already highlighted the global interest in the tournament, with it already being the most searched World Cup in history just less than a week in.

Despite the controversies that preceded the World Cup and its hosts, the quadrennial tournament is always going to generate huge interest, and as Google and the internet evolve there are always going to be new opportunities to offer something new to the user.


Aldi Bullies Yet Another Brand into Submission

Aldi Bullies Yet Another Brand into Submission


Aldi uses social to disrupt M&S website traffic using strategic Social Media & SEO tactics.

Aldi isn’t a plucky underdog, it’s way bigger than M&S in the grocery market and has essentially been bullying them for years.

We answer the question on everyones lips. Is Colin the Caterpillar more famous than Niall Horan?

Aldi hasn’t won every battle. M&S held its own last Christmas.

Aldi doesn’t just do this to “Big Brands”, it constantly copies products leaving small businesses out of pocket

These small businesses tend to be set up to do good in the world, rather than solely set up to make a profit.

At Brand Ambition, we think that is bad…

Aldi has a long-forgotten history of spying on staff, funding North Korean nukes and drug smuggling.

It’s not lost on us that the #FreeCuthbert marketing stunt has generated a powerful amount of positivity around the Aldi brand, whilst also successfully showing up a rival.

As a piece of honest marketing and brand building, it has gained national interest, in the way that only large brands on social media can.

Aldi bullies Marks & Spencer into submission with social media…but at least M&S is big enough to fight back.

What’s disappointing is that it is another example of elitist brand building that damages small businesses and widens the gap between brands with a social conscious and those that, well, don’t.

Marketing campaign success aside, Aldi is a market-dominant bully, that is seemingly flouting copyright legislation (it’s a very complex issue, one which we aren’t qualified to comment on) to generate additional market share, kicking a traditional Yorkshire brand when it’s already down.

Nielsen Grocery Market Share Data – 2019

Nielsen Grocery Market Share

Live Kantar GB Grocery Market Share Data

Whatever data you use to define Grocery Market Share, it’s lucky for M&S that it has a strong & loyal customer base with a renewed online presence, boosted by Covid technology adoption, otherwise, this attack on its brand trademarks might drive its illusion of affordable quality back to the days before the 2006 launch of: ‘This is not just food. This is M&S Food’.

Consumers see Aldi as the plucky underdog, fighting against the “establishment”, aligning itself with brands such as Brewdog and taking pop-shots at established traditional brands like M&S, but in reality, it’s a global brand that gives consumers what they want, cheaper products at the highest possible quality.

Let’s weigh up how Aldi has been taking pop shots at M&S for a while.

Starting with Search Volume and Google Trends, we can see that in the last 7 years, Aldi has won the demand all year round, even Christmas, since 2016.

But this wasn’t enough for Aldi, its continued to belittle M&S on everything it does.

Aldi vs M&S - Stop They're Already Dead

In fact, since 2016, according to SEMRush data, Aldi has seen Organic keyword growth of 1,347%.

Moving from 22,500 keywords in the top 100 to over 335,000 ranking phrases. Its move to create disruptive marketing campaigns that focus on products has led to a direct increase in Organic search recognition. As an SEO tactic, it’s been pretty flawless.

Three times Aldi has outright attacked M&S in a scrap for marketshare.

    1. #Freecuthbert & #CaterpillarsforCancer

The moment that inspired the nation to free a cake recipe and wrestle the ownership away from M&S, which included a series of tweets including:


Followed by another (albeit hilarious) attack on the brand.

If you thought this was just harmless banter, then you don’t know the power of Colin for the M&S website.

Data from SEOMonitor shows that “Caterpillar Cake” has 178 Keywords in the phrase cluster driving 610,000 searches per month.

Phrases that include “Colin” and “cake” has a massive 243,000 searches a month.

To put that in perspective popstar Niall Horan only gets about 100,000 searches a month. So is Colin the Caterpillar more famous than Niall Horan?

Yes. Yes he is (according to SEO Monitor)

Niall Horan vs Colin the Caterpillar

Pre #FreeCuthbert M&S was dominating the SERPs on this phrase. It drove huge amounts of traffic for the brand, which ultimately drove sales.

Typical SERP Pre-FreeCuthbert

As you can see from the SERPs before #FreeCuthbert, Aldi isn’t even on the list. Its cake was going relatively unnoticed and certainly wasn’t helping them drives sales. Then post-campaign, the SERP is now dominated by Aldi and the search volume according to Google trends has seen a 900% increase.

What is seen as a piece of reactive social media, will have long-lasting impacts on traffic to the M&S website.

Good to know: This isn’t an actual snapshot of the SERP, but it is the SERP using the “time” feature to pick on a particular day.

  1. The Identical Drinks Trays

In November 2020, Aldi went after the M&S home market, by creating a popular duplicate of a Mirrored Drinks Tray.

The power of the PR around this piece has pushed Aldi on to the first page rankings for the phrase “Drinks Tray”, which gets around 4,400 searches a month & has ensured they now dominate first and second for the phrase “Mirrored Drinks Tray”.

Aldi M&S Drinks Tray Comparison

The kirkton range has generated over 200 linking domains since launch, helping their entire home section and special buys range to continue the organic uplift on the website.

  1. The fight for “Gastropub”

Believe it or not, M&S has won this battle. The range launched in time for Christmas competed directly against M&S food items and undercut the price on every one.

Despite the blatant attack on their Gastropub range, in terms of the other Aldi campaigns, M&S has fought this one off…for this year.

When we look at terms that drive monthly search volume according to SEMRush we get over 199 suggested terms that include “M&S” and “Gastropub”, with a monthly search volume of 4,370.

Aldi launched under the name “Gastro”, but there are only 5 keywords with a total monthly search volume of 20 for “Aldi” and “Gastro”.

Incidentally, the most searched for is the M&S Chicken and Leek Pie with 880 searches a month, so in terms of the products Aldi was competing with, the company clearly didn’t do its keyword research before hand as they didn’t have a competing product here.

Newspapers reported at the time: “According to Aldi, the collection costs almost 50 percent less than the M&S alternative, with prices starting from £1.99 and meal pairings coming in at less than £10 for two. Gastro dishes include Slow-cooked Texas BBQ Brisket, juicy Salt and Chilli Rib Rack, and Mac & Cheese with Pancetta.”

Sounds delicious, but this round goes to M&S

So…does it matter?

Big brands picking on big brands is part of the game, and we get that. In fact, the boost to a smaller brand, by being recognised by these bigger brands can drive awesome awareness and sales.

Look at the case of Brewdog…

Brewdog got national press and nationwide support as a result of its direct attack on the brand, but the important thing here is that Brewdog had to instigate it and Aldi, despite purposely ripping off and stealing sales from a growing company, get away with appearing like it is doing everyone a favour.

At Brand Ambition, we love an underdog story. We love a brand that challenges, that rises above the fold and takes market share from the dominant players.

We love it, even more, when that brand brings others with the same values along on the journey but is that what Aldi is doing? Or is Aldi bullying smaller brands into submission and driving the market value down to the benefit of itself…and its customers.

For Brewdog, this wasn’t even the biggest thing it did throughout the year to push its brand forward as this Google trends graph shows.

In fact, the biggest story and best marketing campaign for BrewDog was this one…

In other words, Brewdog was pre-committed to doing good in the world. Another clear example, of this, was December 2020, when its reactive PR helped them come up with the idea of utilising their venues as vaccination centres

The Aldi campaign might have helped with additional recognition, but the fact is, Brewdog didn’t need a large supermarket giant, stepping on its market share to make it do some good in the world and get its message across, it was already doing it.

Aldi, in this case, was simply stealing intellectual property from a brand that has worked hard to differentiate itself in a crowded market place.

Four times Aldi has stolen ideas from small companies and left them high and dry


  1. Heck Foods – Chicken Italia Sausages

The family-run business, grown from farmers markets accused Aldi of copying its award-winning chicken Italia sausages. The founder of Heck, Andrew Keeble, labelled the supermarket a “parasite” after Aldi launched a similar looking chicken chipolatas. He went on to say: “Our customers kept getting in touch to say that Aldi is ripping-off our products and they’re not the same products.” He added, “It’s deceiving to our health and fitness audience.”

When Heck contacted Aldi and asked them to stop selling the knock-off products, they were handed a “threatening legal letter”.


  1. The Collective – Gourmet Yoghurt Range.

The Collective also accused Aldi of copying its brand. Aldi launched a luxury yoghurt range called Moo!, bearing a striking resemblance to The Collective’s gourmet yoghurt at half the price. Amelia Harvey, co-founder of The Collective, said customers had been in contact to say they felt ‘duped’. “Aldi is deliberately trying to use the cues of successful brands to fool consumers in to buying them,” she said. “Our brand has taken seven years to tirelessly build by a small team. In one fell swoop Aldi has taken that brand value and used all our cues to cause consumer confusion.”

Speaking to The Grocer magazine, Aldi UK & Ireland chief executive Giles Hurley denied it was copying brands. He added: “What we do with our exclusive brands is identical to what the rest of the market does with own label, which is to draw cues and make products easily identifiable for customers without seeking to copy.”


  1. Vita Coco coconut oil

Aldi undercut Vita Coco coconut oil by 75%. Leaving the company with no option but to ignore the new challenger in its market. The company was set-up to support the farming communities that supply the raw materials for their products.


  1. Charlie Bigham’s Ready Meals

Aldi decided to make its own version, but it made them bigger and sold them up to 43% cheaper. Julie Ashfield from Aldi said that the low cost of the new ready meals will allow customers to make “substantial savings on luxury equivalents without having to compromise.” Charlie Bigham’s is a B Corp, focusing their business influence for good, funding projects like City Harvest. Beating Bowel Cancer and Magic Breakfast an organisation that helps feed over 48,000 school children.


Social conscious matters. Aldi’s flippant social media campaign #caterpillarsforcancer is using a good cause to mask doing something immoral. This time, it’s M&S, next time it’s your favourite local independent.

Aldi has a long-forgotten history of spying on staff, funding North Korean nukes and drug smuggling amongst other scandals. So let’s stop pretending it is the plucky underdog.

From our point of view, the big brands can create entertaining Twitter conversations all they like, just stop stealing ideas from hardworking brands creating quality products, that are doing good in the world by driving a social conscious.

There is a reason some products are more expensive, it’s because they aren’t trying to rip off everyone in the process of it being made.

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