World Cup trends: What the globe is Googling

By: Talia Moore

As the American and German anthems echoed Thursday throughout the Pernambuco arena near Recife in Brazil, halfway around the world in foggy San Francisco a roomful of creative techies were choosing the most-Googled World Cup searches to present to the world.

About two dozen Google employees, along with staff from the digital advertising agency R/GA London, were keeping an eye on the U.S.-Germany and Portugal-Ghana matches while bringing to life Google Trends of the World Cup.

Google Trends illustrate in various languages how often people enter particular search terms related to the World Cup.

For example, a post on the Google Trends site, displayed with an artistically rendered blue foam finger, noted that, “As its team (USA) kicked off against Germany, USA searches for the match were higher than searches for anything else, period.”

The intention of the project is to draw attention to trends in popular culture.

On Thursday, as the U.S. match began, tech geeks and soccer fanatics gathered in a rented Google space, a minimalist San Francisco office with industrial ceilings. They munched on chocolate chip cookies as they watched the match on two large monitors and analyzed possible trends on Mac laptops.

The entire room was bursting with creativity. Wilf Eddings, an R/GA London designer, working on a graphic of Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan, added texture to his hair and set his skin tone. Post-its with sketches of faces and drawings of soccer balls covered the tables and colorful, already-published World Cup trends lined the white walls.

During the game the team looked for a “sweet spot,” a trend based on popular searches that many people are talking about. This is the first World Cup that people are watching on their phones and searching for related information during the game.

Google’s World Cup trends project has surpassed its wildest expectations, said Ricardo Amorim, a creative director at R/GA London. “Once we found the true potential of that gold mine, which is Google data, it was quite easy to move forward.” Halfway through World Cup competition, their work has been featured in media all over the globe.

In only 32 days, drawing on more than 1 billion World Cup-related searches, Google Trends have been created in 12 languages. The trends range from people on the rise, popular players and social trends searched on Google. They also include sentiments expressed on Google+ social media accounts.

The Luis Suárez bite is an example of a search phrase that Google Trends put into the context of other searches: Globally people searched for Suárez’s bite 20 times more than they did for just “bite.” Roya Soleimani, Google communications manager and World Cup lead, said the comparison of one number to another “gives it context that gives it legs.”

Assembled only three weeks ago, the Google Trends World Cup team came from all over the world and did not know each other previously. Nevertheless, they established a positive working atmosphere quickly.

“It’s rare that we get to work on things that evolve over time,” said Madeline Kane, a Google product marketing manager and World Cup Trends lead.

Amorim said, “As a Brazilian, especially to work on a World Cup project during the World Cup that is happening in Brazil is just really fantastic.”

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