Exploring the Most Pivotal Mobile Moments During the 2018 World Cup

The World Cup began with much fanfare mid last month and will continue until the final match between France and Croatia this coming Sunday. This year's tournament has been particularly exciting for sports fans as a number of favorites have witnessed dramatic falls and some relative unknowns have climbed to new heights.

After examining our data, we found that a few app categories and national teams are showing particularly strong engagement during the affair:

  • Apps that give fans access to stream matches and monitor statistics (Sports and News) saw a noticeable uptick in launches per user when the World Cup started (June 14).
  • As Summer vacation kicks into full gear, checking the weather, Travel, Gaming, and of course Photography apps have taken the front seat, while Education, Reference, and Utilities apps have seen little growth if any.
  • Sports app engagement reached an all-time high on June 27 when Mexico managed to make it to the knockout stage despite losing to Sweden in their last game of the group stage, taking Germany’s place.

This chart shows the lift in app launches from the first half of June to the second by app type:


App Launch Lift by Type


Now is a great time for Sports and News app marketers to begin strategizing for the final match as streaming services will be most popular on the 15th. Keep in mind that these app users are challenging to market to because interrupting someone’s stream with an in-app message can be intrusive. However, this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of push notifications as around 63% of respondents to a Localytics survey on streaming apps said that they were more likely to open and use an app if notifications from the app contained breaking news concerning sports teams.

Users Most Engaged During the Mexico vs. Sweden Game

We took a look at sports app engagement for competing teams from June 1 to July 10 and uncovered the following trend. App launches per user spiked on June 27 because users were concerned with two specific games: Mexico vs. Sweden and Germany vs. South Korea.


Daily Sports App Launches


Sports app engagement topped out the trend line on June 27 near the end of the Group Stage, reaching 5.7 launches per user. Two days later there was a break in matches and activity dropped to 2.8, which is slightly lower than activity before the tournament started, perhaps indicating mounting fan anticipation. App engagement recovered to a little over four launches after June 30 and has been winding down as more teams are eliminated.

Breaking down the data by country reveals that Mexico, although defeated by Sweden on the field, just barely made it to the knockout round and managed to win the app launches game. The team later went on to lose its first game in the knockout round but it's clear that Mexico has the most hardcore mobile fans.




The average sports app user in Mexico launched apps eight times on the 27th. Among other teams that played on that day Sweden came in second with 7.6 launches and Switzerland in third with 6.4. The Germans came up with a distraught 6 launches, Serbia 5.8, Costa Rica 5.6, Russia 5.5, the Koreans a disinterested 5.3, while Brazil trailed the pack with 4.6. On the other hand, these countries still managed to beat the average of 3.4 globally, so it’s clear that they were relatively engaged.

We found that users launched apps most at the end of matches. This is likely because the stakes were highest and everyone was so excited that they couldn’t help but constantly check on their team’s progress. It’s also likely that users who were not interested at the onset of both the Germany/South Korea and Mexico/Sweden matches found themselves convinced to start streaming near the end. Both games began at around 1:00 PM UTC and ended close to 3:00 PM UTC.


Hourly Sports App Launches On June 27


App launches in all countries jumped from 1.5 at 1:00 PM UTC to 2.7 launches at 3:00 PM UTC, then dipped back down at around 4:00 PM UTC.

This is important insight for app marketers: Consider sending push messages near the end of big sports games when stakes are high and try targeting the most relevant users based on location and team victory.

As a policy, it is always better to use dynamic messaging based on user profiles such as a user’s favorite soccer team. We have previously reported that sending dynamic and segmented messages result in almost 3X open rates and engagement. It’s a tough balance to strike when what may seem timely could simply be annoying, so show end-users you know what they care about by sending them push notifications about their beloved team. A subtle nudge goes a long way in convincing someone to convert. 

Final Thoughts - Testing out Notifications Based On User Behavior

It never hurts to test notification strategies based on user input. Breaking news, security notifications, and alerts on the availability of new content and subscription offers are great notification types that are worth investigating. Regardless of who is on top, consider using these strategies for the final upcoming game!


Localytics is the leading analytics and marketing platform for mobile and web apps across more than 1 billion devices and 28,000 apps. Localytics processes 50 billion data points monthly. Engagement is defined as the average number of app launches per user. For app launch lift data, we observed launches globally in both the first half of June 2018 and the second half in all apps. For all other app launch data we only looked at sports app launches in competing team's countries.