As the year draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to look back on the moments that connected us. Over the past 12 months, we were a reflection of what played out in the real world in real time, on a global and a personal scale. Over the summer, Facebook became the biggest stadium in the world as fans gathered to cheer for and discuss sports teams. At other times, we were a place to drive social change, to share political views, to show solidarity and to grieve. What follows are the top 10 topics that moved people on Facebook around the world in 2014 and the implications of these moments for marketers.
1. World Cup
All eyes were on Rio this past summer for the world’s most popular sport’s event. The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil drove more conversation than any other event in Facebook history. 350 million people joined the discussion about the month-long tournament, which culminated in Germany beating Argentina 1-0 on July 13 with a goal made in the 113th minute.
The World Cup is like having a Super Bowl every day for a month. It’s a marketing stage for the entire world and a goldmine for the tournament’s official sponsors. FIFA’s major partners for the Rio World Cup included Adidas, Coca-Cola, Emirates, Hyundai, Sony and Visa, which paid $25-50 million per year for the honor. Other sponsors paid around $10-$25 million a year and included Budweiser, Castrol, Continental, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, plus Moy Park, Oi and Yingli Solar.1
2. Ebola Virus Outbreak
This year, the most widespread Ebola epidemic in history struck West Africa, affecting multiple countries and claiming the lives of thousands of people. Thousands of others have beaten the deadly virus with the assistance of organizations from around the world.
Natural disasters and health-care emergencies like the Ebola outbreak are a crucial time to come to the aid of people and be of service. Since the epidemic hit, many brands have stepped forward to mobilize their expertise and resources in West Africa. Some donated their products directly, like Clorox, which gave bleach for cleanup and decontamination, and UPS, which provided air, ocean and ground shipments for medical supplies, protective equipment and disinfectants. Other brands donated millions to nonprofit agencies working directly on the ground, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the International Medical Corps and the American Red Cross.2
3. Elections in Brazil
This year’s presidential election in Brazil was one of the most discussed and debated in the country’s history. In August, a plane crash took the life of the Socialist Party candidate Eduardo Campos. In October, incumbent Dilma Rousseff narrowly won a runoff with the slimmest margin in the country’s history. Some 48 million people on Facebook in Brazil had 674 million interactions about the election.
As the world’s 7th wealthiest country with a GDP of $2.25 trillion, Brazil is a powerhouse of an emerging market economy and a hot market for brands and companies. The fact that the Brazilian elections were the 3rd most-talked-about moment globally speaks not only to the size of the country and its collective voice but also to how it’s now on the world stage.3
4. Robin Williams
In August, the world lost the beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams. Within 24 hours of Williams’ death, 100 million interactions happened on Facebook, as fans and public figures around the world shared their thoughts about his life and tributes to his work, ranging from quotes to video clips of favorite scenes from his films.
5. Ice Bucket Challenge
Between June and September, actors, athletes and people around the world shared more than 17 million Ice Bucket Challenge videos on Facebook to raise awareness and funds for ALS. Buckets full of ice water splashing down on people’s heads became popular in News Feed, and some 440 million people viewed the videos more than 10 billion times. The challenge went viral and reached almost every country in the world, and the US, Australia and New Zealand were the top participants.
Many events, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, lend themselves to reliving the moment via sight, sound and motion. It’s important to communicate with your audience in the language that they speak and understand, and that language is increasingly visual and delivered through moving images.
6. Conflict in Gaza
In July, ongoing tension between Israelis and Palestinians erupted into a conflict that lasted 7 weeks. Both sides agreed to an open-ended ceasefire on August 22.
7. Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines suffered 2 tragedies this year when Flight 370 and Flight 17 were both lost within months of each other. In March, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, bound for Beijing, disappeared with 239 passengers aboard, resulting in one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. In July, disaster struck again, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, en route to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people on board, crashed in the Ukraine.
8. Super Bowl
In February, the Seattle Seahawks dominated Super Bowl XLVIII to beat the Denver Broncos with a final score of 43-8. Some 50 million people joined the Super Bowl conversation on Facebook with over 185 million interactions about the Big Game, including the teams, players, coaches and key plays.
The period leading up to the Super Bowl is an advertising frenzy, and the ads can sometimes be as important as the sporting event itself. This year’s big game was the most-viewed television event in US history, and NBC is seeking $4.5 million per 30-second ad slot for 2015.4
9. Michael Brown/Ferguson
The controversial shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed teenager, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, led to protests and heated discussions in the US and abroad.
10. Sochi Olympics
In February, the Olympic torch arrived in Sochi, Russia, signifying the start of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games. From the sporting events to the athletes, 120 million interactions took place on Facebook during the Games.
For brands, a sporting event such as the Olympics is another major international marketing platform. This year’s Winter Games were estimated to have reached billions of people in more than 200 countries. Commercial partnerships account for 40% of Olympic revenue. The sponsors of Sochi included Coca-Cola, Atos, Dow, GE, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Omega, Proctor & Gamble, Visa and Samsung.5
Looking ahead to 2015, how can brands take part in moments like these and connect to people?
Extend your message on game day: The World Cup, the Winter Olympics, the Super Bowl — 3 of the most-talked-about moments of the year were real-time sporting events, and Facebook is one of the main online destinations while watching TV. For brands advertising during major sporting events, Facebook can help extend TV investments into an integrated and enhanced experience that extends across multiple device screens beyond the living room. For brands that can’t afford a TV campaign, you can still reach and engage with your audience with Facebook ads.
Communicate in moving pictures: From the Ice Bucket Challenge videos to clips of Robin Williams’ greatest scenes, video uploads and views were on the rise this year. Many events lend themselves to reliving the moment via sight, sound and motion. Increasingly, people are sharing and watching video on-the-go, creating new opportunities for brands to capture minds on the move in a visually vibrant way.
Breaking news in News Feed: People turn to Facebook 365 days of the year. We are a place where they can connect, get informed, be entertained, collaborate, celebrate and grieve. Facebook is ingrained in the fabric of our lives every day and everywhere. It’s the place where one can learn both that a celebrity got married and that an old friend got married. News Feed is a newspaper, magazine and TV rolled into one.
To see details about each global topic and view other top 10 lists, visit Facebook Topics of 2014 @ yearinreview.fb.com.