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Hublot – The Big Winner of The 2018 World Cup

Hublot are still seen as one of the ‘new kids on the block’ when it comes to luxury Swiss watchmaking. Since their initial rise in 1980, the brand which has ties back to Italian royalty Binda and France’s very own Louis Vuitton, have really pushed the envelope with their unique and understated pieces, gaining the admiration of superstars such as Jay-Z, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ed Sheeran along the way.   

You won’t have been able to sun your way through the summer of 2018 without experiencing at least some of the buzz around the Fifa World Cup and in turn, whether subconsciously or consciously, Hublot. As with the previous two tournaments, Hublot again won the chance to be the official timekeeper of the biggest footballing event on the planet; receiving the prize and honour of adorning multiple advertising spaces as well as the referee’s wrist in the process.

So, we asked ourselves – With Hublot taking the opportunity to sponsor this iconic tournament for the third time in a row, what effect does it have on the brand’s popularity? Does timekeeping sponsorship really provide them with the boost they were hoping for?

The results were very interesting indeed, let’s take a look….


The Pre-Match Buzz

Once named as the tournament’s timekeeper, Hublot began to see a boost in interest straight away. Naturally when your name starts popping up alongside Fifa’s own pre-event advertising, fans of both football and luxury watches will have their interest peaked.

Speaking before the tournament, Hublot’s CEO Ricardo Guadalupe spoke highly of the new deal and the instant exposure Hublot would expect to receive. When asked if he thought the deal was worth it to Hublot, he responded:

“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”

The comments from Mr Guadalupe came not long after the details of the deal were announced at Baselworld 2018. While in previous tournaments Hublot had released an official tournament watch, this time around there was a difference. Naturally, Hublot decided to reintroduce its most popular watch, the Big Bang, but with a modern twist, creating their first Big Bang smartwatch.

The Android-based smartwatch has access to thousands of applications as well as compatibility with all Android phones above Version 4.4 and IPhones above IOS 9. For the first time ever, the official Hublot World Cup watch was also to be worn by the referees; with goal-line technology indicators included to assist in their officiating.



Speaking of the watch specifically, Mr Guadeloupe spoke of how Hublot had pushed the boundaries like no other before:

“The Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ offers all the usual features of a smart watch of course, but that’s not where Hublot has applied its innovation and audacity. It brings together everything that inspires the passion of football lovers! The FIFA World Cup is the Holy Grail of emotions for football fans, so just imagine what an object such as a watch that captures each and every one of its moments, its turning points, its stakes could suddenly represent? The football aficionados from among the brand’s friends have been waiting for this watch for a long time!”



Alongside the watch itself, the timekeeping sponsorship granted Hublot added exposure on the pitch. The fourth official board was crafted into the iconic Hublot ‘porthole’ design, with their branding all over it. With up to 3 substitutes allowed per game (4 if the match goes to extra time) as well as the indication of added time in both halves, Hublot’s exposure was guaranteed across the competition’s 64 matches. The added bonus? With team’s in attendance from across the globe, the exposure stretched across every continent, something which is nearly impossible to achieve in other forms of marketing.



The In-Game Stats

As with all sports, the real measure of success is in the stats and in Hublot’s case, their sponsorship of the World Cup was no different. By analysing Google popularity trends, we can see how Hublot’s World Cup sponsorship translated into actual awareness across the globe.  

As we can see from the graph above, since late 2013 Hublot’s popularity has seen a number of major spikes. Firstly we have two major peaks (marked in green) recorded in 2014. Both of these directly relate to the World Cup; the first being the Baselworld World Cup watch launch event, with the second being the 2014 tournament itself, generating a raised interest for the entire duration.

Jump forward to this year’s tournament (marked in red,) we see a slightly greater peak as a result of this year’s world cup sponsorship. During the 2018 tournament, Hublot saw its highest popularity search volumes across the last 5 years, a clear indicator that the enhanced exposure from the tournament paid off, with viewers from all over the world showing interest in the Swiss brand.


For some bonus analysis, we also dived into the two events marked in purple and what may have lead to those peaks in popularity. The result? Another ongoing sporting sponsorship of Hublot’s, this time their short branding of superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather. Hublot saw massive peaks in interest during the bouts between Mayweather and Pacquio in 2015 as well as the infamous match up with Connor McGreggor in 2017. As you can see from the image below, Hublot packed a punch of their own, getting their brand right there in the ring with the superstars.    



It’s undeniable that the sponsorship of the World Cup tournaments brings Hublot an added boost in the interest they receive. But how does this translate into sales? It’s hard to quantity directly as Hublot is owned by luxury goods giant LVMH. Their Watch & Jewellery division, which also include the likes of Tag Heuer, saw an 18% increase in sales from 2014 to 2015 following the previous World Cup, with further 10% increases reported at the beginning of 2018.

Only time will tell and we all await the figures released by LVMH in early 2019 to tell us more, but the initial signs are very promising given the record level of interest the 2018 World Cup has granted Hublot.      

Looking to Next Season

It seems that every aspect of the 2018 World Cup was a huge success. The tournament itself received rave reviews after many initial concerns about its preparations but it seems that everyone was a winner in the end, including Hublot. Again speaking before the tournament, Mr Guadalupe was realistic about the bigger Hublot picture, given the brands relative infancy, they’ve come a long way in 40 years and now sit as a household name for many of us.

“If I go back to 2004 when Mr Biver took the brand, not even my friends in Switzerland knew what Hublot was. I would say we have made some progress in 14 years to make the name known, but it is true that there is still work to go. It takes years and years,”

“The objective we have is to be among the top five that people name when asked to come up with five watch brands. We are not far away. If you look at the 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.”  

If the 2014 World Cup hadn’t put Hublot on the map, the 2018 competition definitely has. While we are already looking forward to the 2022 World Cup in Quatar, we can’t wait to see what Hublot has up its sleeve for the next time the world’s biggest football tournament comes to town!