When Major League Soccer (MLS), the first division professional soccer league for the US and Canada, used a Facebook brand lift study to determine the impact of its mobile-optimized video ads, the organization discovered that the ads drove a significant double-digit lift in intent to watch the championship match.

The world’s most popular sport

Major League Soccer, or MLS, is a men’s professional soccer league that was founded in 1993 and began play in 1996. The organization’s current 22 Canadian and U.S.-based teams compete for the prestigious MLS Cup, which is awarded to the winners of the post-season championship match.


lift in ad recall1


lift in ad recall among 25- to 34-year-olds


lift in awareness of the 2016 MLS Cup2


lift in intent to watch the 2016 MLS Cup3

We’ve used Instagram and Facebook consistently to engage our fans with our big events, but we’d never been able to specifically measure the impact of those efforts on television tune-in. It was great to confirm that our messaging drives fans to engage with us and our broadcast partners on TV. Instagram and Facebook will continue to play an important role in our marketing efforts moving forward.
Howard Handler, Chief Marketing Officer, Major League Soccer
Kicking up awareness

MLS wanted to boost awareness of the upcoming championship match between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders FC, and encourage people to tune in to broadcasts of the 2016 MLS Cup on FOX and UniMás.

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Showcasing great highlights

MLS partnered with digital agency VaynerMedia to run an awareness-focused campaign across Instagram and Facebook that would encourage people to tune in for the 2016 MLS Cup.

After testing different types of creative, the MLS team developed a series of short videos in the square format—suitable for both Instagram and Facebook mobile News Feed. The videos, which featured clips of exciting plays from the regular season, were optimized for mobile and used text overlays with tune-in information in the first 3 seconds of the video.

The organization then targeted its ads to fans of MLS Cup title contenders Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC as well as broader soccer and sports fans.

Following the 5-day-long campaign, MLS conducted a Facebook brand lift study to determine the impact of its ads. The study polled both a randomly generated “control” group of people who did not see the ads and an “exposed” group of people who did see the ads.

The brand lift study not only revealed a 31-point lift in ad recall, but an impressive 24-point lift in intent to watch the 2016 MLS Cup. The campaign, which reached more than 12 million people, also resulted in a 22-point lift in awareness of the 2016 MLS Cup.