What we can learn from the Belgium football team about Attribution

August 9, 2018

Believe it or not, yes there is a loose association between these two very disparate subject matters – football and attribution.

Unless you’ve been living with your eyes closed over the Summer, you may have witnessed Belgium reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup and then going on to beat England in the third place match. A few of us at R.O.EYE still haven’t recovered from the tournament that might have been. But cast your mind back to the Belgium versus Japan game where, in the dying seconds, Nacer Chadli broke Japan’s hearts with one of the goals of the tournament.

For those that haven’t seen this stunning team goal – follow the link here.

For me, the operative word is ‘team’. Examining it closely, the goalkeeper Courtios throws it out to Kevin De Bruyne, who then passes it wide, which is then whipped in to Chadli for his tap in. Good team goal I’m sure you can agree.

With my marketing cap on (when is it ever off?), I think it can show us a lot about customer journeys and our ability to accredit online channels in the path to sale.

Here’s three quick observations:

1. Four players involved in the play (multiple touch-points in the journey)

Without the preceding 3 touches before Chadli’s goal, quite simply, the goal will have never occurred. From our own data taken across retail, finance and travel industries, 31% of journeys are single-step. For example, the customer knows what they want, and they transact having touched one channel like PPC, email, or affiliate. The other 69% rely on other players in the game; some are more reliant one first-click introductions (think Courtios as a PPC advert), and some do better on a last click model like affiliate.

2. The Lukaku dummy (a nod to post-impression marketing)

Interesting, not a touch-point per se in the goal, but observe closely and Lukaku does a step-over which contributes to the goal since it pulls the defender towards him. In an attribution sense, I liken this to retargeting display campaigns. An agnostic and data-driven attribution model would look to positively up-weigh the contribution of this step over as it did have a crucial part to play in front of goal. Whereas, on a last click basis, depending on de-duplication rules, this effort wouldn’t be recognised at all. Very subtle part of the play, but nonetheless effective – if done correctly, a little like display.

3. The ground covered (journey path and channel latency)

What’s interesting about the goal is the sheer amount of ground covered by the individual players. For example, Kevin De Bruyne covers the most amount of ground in his charge through the centre of the field, which was 50 yards or so. On a data-driven basis, his attribution would be highly reward. Perhaps we can liken this to a comparison site or content site, one of the most overlooked and crucial parts of the research stage.

Arguably, we can say that the goal – i.e. last click – was an affiliate. Looking at the data extracted from SingleView, affiliates tend to be the best channel in converting at the lower end of the funnel, with 35% of all touchpoints tending to be the last click in the journey.

What next?

Yes, Chadli’s name will be etched in the annals of time as would be say the last click referrer in your Google Analytics package. But delve into the data at a much more granular level, and you’ll discover that he wasn’t alone in this feat.

For me, this analogy demonstrates a wakeup call for the industry to not adjudge and base marketing decisions on a last click attributed model, which has been the industry go-to standard for as long as I can remember.

A data-driven attribution is important as it enables a deeper layer of actionable insights for our clients. Within the agency we are seeing a positive difference in reducing cost from otherwise wasted marketing spend and making marketing channels more efficient.

So, the next time you read about attribution, think of Belgium in the 2018 World Cup. However, if that’s too triggering and the very mention of Belgium gives you nightmares about 42 years of hurt, then think about this goal. Consider that by ‘rewarding’ only the goal scorer, you’re basing decisions only on a very small portion of the bigger picture.

Surely that’s something we can all agree on.