Question: Which official World Cup sponsor is winning the social sharing battle? Answer: None of them.

In my last column, I covered the battle between top World Cup sponsor Adidas and non-World Cup sponsor Nike. I looked at how the modern ad has been replaced in favour of branded content (but don’t call it that!) designed to engage in a high-profile TV sting and be engaging enough to be shared within social channels.

This month, marketing technology company Unruly Media released a study charting the levels of social sharing across all World Cup-related ads - from official sponsors and others - released over the World Cup period. The results may surprise you. No expense was spared on the levels of quality content released by the likes of Nike and Adidas. Nike in particular has delivered on entertainment value and earned itself three times the shares Adidas has achieved so far. Remember, Adidas is an official World Cup sponsor - Nike is not.

However, the number one shared ad to date is not even from a sports-related brand. It is from yoghurt brand (and non-sponsor) Activia, which has created a clever ad starring Shakira. The third most shared is an excellent ad by headphones brand Beats by Dre. Beats by Dre (you’ve guessed it) is not an official sponsor either.

This raises important questions about modern marketing and how we consider the effectiveness of our endeavours. The natural inclination is to assume official sponsorship equals awareness and recall. Makes sense, right? Brands like Adidas and Castrol (yes, Castrol) certainly think it’s worth paying up to £120m for the privilege.

But the Unruly study would indicate that in the social age, emotion, entertainment and audience connection are what is really important. Personally, I would always argue that peer recommendation or advocacy is the most valuable form of marketing. If we can achieve high levels of social advocacy - where individuals become brand champions - then we are making a true and measurable impact.

That, however, will only ever be achieved by investing in great content - not by bombarding the audience with paid media. Sure, paid media can help you fight through the noise to reach critical mass during events like the World Cup. But the lesson from the Unruly results is that we no longer live in an age where repetitive brand impressions and push messaging are enough. Your customers are in charge of how they consume media and want more for their valuable attention. Only those prepared to invest in retaining it will win the battle of hearts and - more importantly - become consumers’ preferred choice of brand.

John Barton is managing partner and co-founder of TestifyDigital