World Cup traffic spike: Utilities ad performance grows by 20%

Partner Post - PropellerAds Worldwide Performance Advertising & Self-Service Platform

Posted: February 15, 2023

In 2022, the Utilities vertical showed significant growth during sports events, specifically – the World Cup. PropellerAds noticed that conversion rates around certain GEOs, ad formats, and OS spiked by 20%.

As stated in Forbes research, 65% of sports fans prefer smartphones to watch games. Considering these numbers, it’s easy to suggest that a lot of sports fans naturally become active users of mobile applications, especially those that make their game-watching experience more convenient, like:

  • VPNs
  • Ad blockers
  • Anti-viruses

PropellerAds constantly monitors and analyzes the tendencies of the digital advertising market. The most important part of this research usually involves interpretations of the platform’s statistics, where thousands of marketers launch their ads.

The theory about sports and Utilities was proven by PropellerAds’ internal tests, as well as advertisers, brands, and media buyers that work with the ad platform. Competitions – global and local – prove to be the best time to launch ad campaigns, especially those that meet the sports fans’ interests. Utilities are in this category.

Why does the Utilities vertical perform well during sports events?

31% of Internet users worldwide use a VPN service, according to DataProt statistics. The same research shows that 43% of people globally feel that they lack control over their personal information, which is also a reason to use VPNs for them. DataProt shows the survey results where the objectives of VPN usage are listed:

  • Protect privacy on public Wi-Fi – 51%
  • Anonymous browsing – 44%
  • Access restricted sites – 23%
  • Access better entertainment – 22%

In the case of sports fans, users stick to VPN mostly to access online content that might be blocked in their country.

As for the ad blockers, check worldwide statistics from Statista. As we can see from their findings, in some Asian countries, half the Internet users stick to ad blockers, while in other countries about 30% of users browse the Internet with this kind of app turned on.

Sports fans usually use ad blockers to avoid any interruptions in their watching experience. Sports competitions are the field for marketing of all kinds, but not all users agree to stumble not only at some interesting offers but also at ads that are not always relevant. Ironically, the ad for ad blockers may interest them.

Last but not least, anti-viruses. claims to provide stats on the global anti-viruses market, which is expected to grow from $3.92 billion in 2021 to $4.06 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6%.

Sports fans are used to watching matches online, so antivirus software, whether mobile or desktop, helps them to prevent risks of malware, which can steal their data, encrypt it, or even erase it entirely.

PropellerAds ad performance insights

How does this popularity of utilities among sports fans look in practice? How does user acquisition change during the matches and should you, as an advertiser or digital product owner, include these events in your marketing strategy?

To show you the traffic spike, we present some of our statistics that cover the World Cup (Nov 20, 2022 – Dec 18, 2022) performance. The first line in every cell represents performance for a previous period – 30 days – and the second line shows growth.


Let’s start with GEOs, where Utilities vertical showed the best results:

As you can see from the table, the largest growth was noticed around the US, BR, JP, BF (Burkina Faso), NP, SA, CA, ES, and KZ. The USA, Brazil, Japan, Canada, and Spain were the participating countries, while some top GEOs, like Burkina Faso, Nepal, or Kazakhstan, didn’t take part in the game, staying on top.

“iGaming offers become more and more popular around African and Asian countries, including Burkina Faso and Nepal. The same happens in other countries known as developed and emerging markets, as we can conclude from our inner tests. 

To make a deposit, which is an extremely popular activity during the World Cup, users need utilities – namely, VPNs. Even though these countries cannot boast of large traffic volumes, it doesn’t mean that you cannot earn money there. Considering the trend described above, these GEOs are worth an experiment.”

– Anastasia Khegay, PropellerAds Senior Account Strategist

The USA, as a leader, had a conversion growth of 20% during the period of the World Cup, which is a significant result.

As such, marketers need to mind not only the GEOs of playing teams but research and take a chance targeting those regions that are constantly interested in large football matches.


Now let’s take a look at the OS targeting:

iOS was the most widely-used OS during the World Cup. This is easy to explain through the best-performing GEOs since we have the US and Japan as leaders. In these two GEOs, about 50% of users prefer iOS, according to Statista.

Android showed lower performance during the World Cup. The reason is simple – VPNs, as the most popular category of Utilities, come mostly for iOS. Android is associated with other types of apps, namely – cleaners.

Ad formats

Now let’s see the ad format statistics:

Regarding the ad formats, we can see significant growth of Interstitials – this format shows to be the most efficient for sports events, and the conversion growth makes 17.51%. Push notifications also performed well – 15.19%, while Onclick dropped a bit.

Interstitials and push notifications work efficiently with Utilities. Interstitial’s size allows advertisers to locate large pictures or info about the product right on the ad, while Push is subtle and doesn’t interrupt the watching experience of sports fans. Take a look at the examples:

Ad spend

We also asked Anastasia Khegay, PropellerAds Senior Account Strategist, about the advertisers’ spending trends during such events as the World Cup. Here is what she said:

“During the World Cup and other significant events that are associated with traffic spikes, advertisers usually increase their spend by two or even three times. By doing so, they increase their chances of getting more highly-converting traffic, expanding reach, and finding new audiences. In other words, they are making the most of the event in the sense of marketing.”


So, we have investigated an unobvious connection between the sports and Utilities verticals. As we can see from the stats and tendencies, not only iGaming and sports-related products are in high demand during large sports games like the World Cup. Along with the global digitalization growth, various verticals and audiences intersect more intensively. Therefore, more products and offers can count on the heightened interest of the audience.

So, considering the statistics, we can conclude that the potentially profitable campaign settings for a utility campaign may be the following:

  • GEOs: target the playing teams GEOs + countries where there is a high percentage of football fans, like Brazil and South Africa. Before launching a campaign for playing GEO, do your small research and see if locals prefer watching matches online or on a TV;
  • OS: iOS and Windows were the best performers, but every marketer should consider other targeting settings of his campaign and perceive GEO and OS in the tightest bundle.
  • Ad format: Interstitials and push notifications to prove to be efficient for the Utilities vertical.
  • Spend: x2 or x3 will increase the chances of getting more relevant and converting traffic.
  • Analytics: during such global events as the World Cup, you should be ready for a more competitive auction. Therefore, make sure to use the analytical instruments within the ad platform you use to see which traffic share you can count on. Otherwise, you can try promoting niche products and offers. As a rule, the audiences of niche products are associated with lower competition.

As the experience of PropellerAds partners shows, targeting sports events is a good and potentially-profitable idea. All the advice and conclusions we present in this article are based on practice, so keep them in mind to make your campaigns even more efficient.

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