More than 2 Billion World Cup-related searches have been made since the event started on June 12. The opening game scored record ratings for ESPN, outpacing every other Cup dating back to 1930. Here are 10 marketing plays that helped the 2014 World Cup become the most watched in history.

1. Use controversy to your advantage

In a country where it can be unsafe to take a taxi and ATMs are too often tools for hackers to rob unwitting tourists, one stadium received $900 million in government funds to be built for the World Cup—and 13 other stadiums were also funded by the state.

Riots and protestors occupied building areas until they were forced out by police. Around the world, news of violence surrounding the Cup spread like juicy gossip. The World Cup took the negativity in stride and used it to boost viewership; as the games progressed, the bad press subsided, replaced by vast audiences.

The lesson: controversy, handled well, can be parlayed into increased audiences.

(For example, when the lyrics site Rap Genius was penalized by Google for spammy SEO practices back in December 2013, it was a PR nightmare. However, the site took the negative news in stride, using all the press about the incident to build up positive SEO—gaining links from The New York Times, Time Magazine, and hundreds of other top news sites. Today, the site is ranking higher than ever, and it recently closed a $40 million round of funding.)

2. Highlight personal stories

James Rodriguez is the kid from Colombia who burst onto the scene in this World Cup; Neymar went down with a vertebra injury, effectively crippling his team; Lionel Messi couldn't quite do it all and fell short of glory. Each of these stories is its own mini-event inside the World Cup, providing news on a continuous basis.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. He writes about new ways to connect with customers and build trust with them.

Linkedin: Josh Haynam

Twitter: @jhaynam