Roberto Carlos + real-time triggers = AirAsia’s solution for a striking World Cup campaign

Among intense competition between Asia’s low-cost airlines, AirAsia was striving to secure its brand perception as champion of the market. Who better to lead the charge than the brand’s global ambassador, renowned world champion footballer Roberto Carlos? The brand used real-time triggers to serve bumper ads featuring Carlos during the 2018 World Cup, allowing it to reach a massive audience of engaged fans in the tournament’s most memorable moments.

AirAsia is a brand built on big dreams. After CEO Tony Fernandes acquired the airline in 2001, he set an ambitious goal to secure a leading position in the nascent low-cost carrier market. Since then, AirAsia has expanded to more than 165 destinations across 25 countries while consistently winning awards as Asia’s best low-cost airline.

The airline’s marketing team saw a golden opportunity to champion its standing as a world leader leading up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. More than one billion fans tuned in to watch the month-long tournament in 2014, with over 280 million of them watching online for the World Cup Final in Brazil. For that reason, AirAsia knew its global brand ambassador, Brazilian football superstar and World Cup champion Roberto Carlos, would be a perfect fit to capture fans’ excitement and kindle a desire to fly on AirAsia’s distinctly cheap flights.  

The airline also knew that football fans’ World Cup fever is no longer limited to just one screen. While they’re watching the game on TV, football fans are also going on YouTube to watch behind-the-scenes content, highlights, and commentary. So, to capture attention during the 2018 World Cup, AirAsia used Roberto Carlos’ infectious personality and real-time triggers to serve comical bumper ads during key moments, which led to one of the brand’s most memorable and engaging campaigns.

Using real-time triggers to reach second-screeners on YouTube

AirAsia’s #StillGotIt campaign featured Carlos showing off the skills he still has even after retiring, from his signature curling free kick to non-stop Samba dancing. Using real-time triggers in Display & Video 360, the brand was able to time the launch of its YouTube ads to align with the most memorable World Cup moments, including opening kickoff, during halftime, after goals were scored, and at the end of most matches.

This variation of AirAsia’s bumper ad creative was triggered at halftime of every World Cup match.
This bumper ad creative was triggered by every goal and the end of each match.

AirAsia focused on reaching fans in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand — countries with avid football fan bases that are highly engaged on YouTube during the World Cup — and doubled the ads’ frequency during Brazil’s matches and the World Cup Final to ramp up engagement.

#StillGotIt: Roberto Carlos stirs fans in Southeast Asia

By synching its ads with the most crucial moments and partnering with a world-renowned winner like Carlos, AirAsia’s campaign resonated with millions of fans. The brand conducted an online survey among viewers and saw BrandFit scores of Roberto Carlos with AirAsia reach 79.4% — higher than the industry benchmark for celebrity associations in branding campaigns.1

“In the past, it was a tedious and manual task to reach so many different markets in precisely the right moments with the right message,” said Ravi Shankar, AirAsia’s group head of digital marketing. “Timing our ads with crucial in-game moments proved to be the right play, and we’re excited to explore its potential during major global events in the future.”

The surprising thing sports fans are looking for on YouTube