Sony Ericsson kicks off Twitter World Cup

The official 2010 FIFA World Cup sponsor is redefining 'handball' with a virtual World Cup that fans can play by tweeting at their favourite team - using mobile handsets of course.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup, which takes place in South Africa next summer, is dubbed the first social-media World Cup, which aligns perfectly with Sony Ericsson’s product, said Peter Farmer, director of marketing at Sony Ericsson Canada. The electronics brand is an official sponsor for the 2010 Games, and it’s gaining early visibility with an online tournament where fans, not players, can lead their favourite team to victory.

Developed by Cossette’s London, UK-based digital agency Dare, the Sony Ericsson Twitter World Cup, which kicked off with the draw for the group stage in early December, asks soccer fans to tweet at #TWC and their favourite country’s name. The team with the most tweets wins and moves on to the next round. The contest is being promoted in the social-media realm through Sony Ericsson’s own Twitter page, (which has about 5,000 followers) and on the brand’s homepage that Farmer said gets about 100,000 unique visits per month. Hosted on Sony Ericsson‘s site, the site is also promoted on some soccer blogs.

‘Tweeting is happening more and more in the mobile world than anywhere else,’ said Farmer.

The brand will get visibility during the tournament in advertising and in stadium, but the contest will get more of an online push closer to the big games. ‘It’s all about national bragging rights,’ he said. ‘A lot of [sponsor visibility] happens in an online space, more so than ever before,’ Farmer told MiC.

There are no prizes associated with the Twitter World Cup, but Farmer believes national pride and seeing a beloved team progress is enough to attract interest of soccer fans.

‘It’s more of an emotional reward than anything else,’ he said. The virtual realm also makes the impossible possible – for instance, Sony Ericsson kept Ireland in the Twitter competition because the Irish were still reeling over a disqualifying handball goal by France. ‘The Irish are twittering like mad,’ Farmer said.