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England vs. Italy – Did it live up to expectations?

by Babita Earle , 19.06.2014

Despite an encouraging performance, England got their World Cup campaign under way on Saturday night in the way many expected – with a defeat to Italy. However, what was perhaps unexpected was the lack of uplift in mobile activity seen during the match, with many anticipating 2014 World Cup to be the ‘most mobile yet’. Gambling sites and apps, for example, typically see a strong peak on smartphones around important sports events as fans place last minute bets, but behavior on the night did not correspond with those expectations.

With England’s opener in Manaus kicking off so late, many fans probably forwent the traditional pub atmosphere – despite later opening hours – choosing to stay in and nervously watch in the comfort of their own homes, with tablets and laptops much closer to hand. But amongst those using their smartphones, levels of activity amongst men remained stable while the match was on, while women’s activity – and perhaps their interest in the football – dropped off after the first half, with a decrease in female users of nearly 25%.

As is the case with many sporting events, some sites and apps maintained higher levels of activity compared to their typical performance. For fans regardless of gender, BBC Sport was the main source of information. The BBC Sport site, normally the 8th most visited site amongst men and 21st amongst women, jumped into second and third position respectively but had close competition from the Sky Sports Live Football Score Centre, which saw a similar increase in popularity.

The real interest is less about what fans were doing, and more about what they weren’t doing on their phones during the match. Outside of BBC Sport, sites and apps across the board saw a significant drop in audience reach as people focused on the football and ignored potential distractions. Even social networks took a hit, though Instagram lost fewer users than the rest – perhaps as viewers documented the agony and the ecstasy of watching England play.

With England looking to get back on track on Thursday against Uruguay, and with kick off at the more sociable time of 8pm, it will be interesting to see if fans engage more with their smartphones – whether it be to place bets, check the score, or even stream the game.

For more mobile insights from the World Cup and other current data, visit Our Thinking page.

Babita Earle is Head of GfK UK Digital Market Intelligence. For more information, contact her at babita.earle@gfk.com

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