Hublot has been official timekeeper at the past three soccer World Cup Finals, with the watchmaker providing smartwatches for referees, and its branding appearing across advertising hoardings and officials’ sign boards.
The challenge with promotions of this kind is measuring their impact.
Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe told WatchPro ahead of the tournament that he is certain the message is getting through.
“Yes, because to be on the fourth referee’s board gives us huge brand awareness. We have more than 20 minutes of visibility during each match to a global audience of billions who will see the brand Hublot. The fourth referee’s board in the shape of a watch will help people make the deduction that the word Hublot is a watch brand. Of course not all of those billions of people can afford to buy a Hublot watch, but we believe that people knowing that Hublot is a watch brand is enough; maybe one day people will be able to afford to buy one,” Mr Guadalupe replies.
For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of football officiating (unlikely since 32 million tuned into the England quarter-final), the fourth referee is on the side of pitch alongside the two teams’ substitutes benches. Every time a player is substituted, the official holds up the Hublot-branded sign board to show the shirt number of the player departing, and the player joining the game.
The board is also used to show how much overtime there will be at the end of each half of the match. The television coverage almost always cuts to the fourth official so the sign board gets plenty of screen time.
Mr Guadalupe knows that billions of people watching the World Cup will not even know that Hublot is a watch brand. Fewer still will see the branding and reach for their credit cards to make an instant purchase.
The plan, as the Hublot boss describes, is to make as much of the world aware as possible that Hublot is a watch brand.
It is a plan that has made an impact, according to Chrono 24, the world’s largest online marketplace for luxury watches.
Exclusive analysis of visitor traffic to the Chrono24 website shows that every time the Hublot board is shown in the football, people start searching the web for Hublot.
“The numbers don’t lie. Every time a player is substituted, the world can see the official’s substitution board and Hublot’s page views rise immediately and significantly,” a statement from Chrono24 reveals.
Chrono24, thanks to its scale, digital marketing and technical sophistication of its platform, appears high up on searches when people Google for Hublot and other watch brands sold via its marketplace. It is therefore an accurate barometer of the spike in searches for Hublot every time the fourth official’s board appears.
The graph of Germany’s match against Mexico illustrates the effect perfectly. The number of page views for Hublot watches on Chrono24 is fairly consistent during the match, but increases more than five-fold as early substitutions are made. The effect is less dramatic as the match progresses.
The effect for Hublot at halftime was even more dramatic in the Germany versus Sweden game, with page views spiking immediately as the referee’s board was raised.
Chrono24 also crunched the numbers on where the visits were coming from. Not surprisingly during the Germany Mexico match, the greatest effect came from Germany.
The instant impact of the fourth official board is the most noteworthy return on Hublot’s investment, but it remains to be seen how this translates into sales for its retailers.
Mr Guadalupe is convinced that the investment is worth it. “The objective we have is to be among the top five that people name when asked to come up with five watch brands,” he reveals. “We are not far away. If you look at the [Swiss bank] Vontobel report for 2017, Hublot was 11th in a list including all price points such as Longines and Tissot. If I take only watch brands at the higher price point of CHF 5000 and above at retail, we are number five. That does not include Rolex. If I include Rolex we are number six. Rolex is another world.”