Euro 2016, which will be hosted by France, is the biggest iteration of the European football tournament to date, with 24 teams competing and the match total rising from 31 to 51 games. The eight additional teams are expected to add an additional 230 million viewers.
And domestically even more is at stake, with England joined by home nations Wales and Northern Ireland (we’re sorry Scotland!) for the first time at a major international tournament.
A fan-first approach
Having been the official beer sponsor to the Euros since 1988, Carlsberg says a fan-first approach will be key to achieving standout throughout the month-long tournament. The beer brand’s global TV campaign for Euro 2016 is a comedic throwback to the French revolution, with former Chelsea FC defender Marcel Desailly (pictured below) depicted as a French revolutionary handing out tickets to fans.
Richard Whitty, senior marketing manager for football at Carlsberg, says sponsors must authentically appeal to fans or risk alienation.
He explains: “It is really tough to be a sponsor as this is the biggest ever Euros so we’re not just competing with other beer brands and sponsors but so many lifestyle brands and disruptors too.
“I’m glad the ad isn’t too blokey as our target audience is as much male as it is female when it comes to the Euros. We wanted to tap into the intrigue of France and Parisian history but also mirror the French Revolution as a lot of football fans believe the sport needs a revolution right now.”
With comments like that you’d expect Whitty to be having a dig at Uefa. After all, its former president Michel Platini was recently barred from the sport for eight years due to allegations around his role in the FIFA corruption scandal.
Whitty counters: “It isn’t a dig at any governing body as UEFA have given us the reassurances we needed as a sponsor and we fully support them, especially their attempts to prioritise security in France at Euro 2016.
“But the revolutionary message we want to push to UEFA is of the fans and why tickets have to get into the right people’s hands. There is a perception around the big tournaments that tickets are hard to get hold of and it is a very corporate thing so that’s why we made the decision as a brand to hand fans more tickets than we’ve ever done previously.”
Steve Martin, CEO of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, agrees with the Carlsberg approach. He insists the usual marketing approach among UK brands to solely generate support for the England team or celebrate the game of football as a whole has become stale and believes that a lighter approach could now be key.
“The idea of brands pushing the idea of the England team dominating bores consumers as they know the reality has been very different for a while now.”
Steve Martin, CEO of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment.
He adds: “I’ve not been that impressed by the activity I’ve seen so far, it’s all been the same old bang the drum message like the Mars ad. The funny ads that are actually saying something different will win out. This will be a huge tournament with lots of eyes as it hasn’t got any scheduling conflicts so there’s a real opportunity for somebody to take a risk and really stand out.”
Taking a risk
It’s fair to say Betfred is more than taking that risk. England, who are currently 9/1 to win with Betfred, have exited major tournaments six times via the dreaded penalty shoot-out including three times at the European Championships in 1996, 2004 and 2012.
And the bookmakers will refund all bets on England to win the tournament should the Three Lions get knocked out in a penalty shoot-out.
“We could face a huge payout,” admits its head of marketing Gemma Strath. “But we wanted to stand out and do something different. Our media spend is different from our rivals and not nearly as high so we have to be disruptive to stand out.”
To amplify this risk the brand has signed up former England defender Stuart Pearce, a player that missed a crucial penalty in the 1990 World Cup semi-final. He appears in an ad promoting the bookmaker’s new voice recognition technology on its app.
Pearce will also appear as an online pundit for the brand throughout the four-week competition and Strath says digital activity via the likes of Twitter and Facebook will allow Betfred to build its activity on a week-by-week basis.
“Usually we’d lead with above the line activity, but this time it is only 20% of our spend to 80% on digital channels,” she says. “It is the best way to react in real-time to all the action and carefully build a narrative.”
Appealing to the home nations
There will be a 30% increase in mobile visits for advertisers during Euro 2016, up from a 21% rise in World Cup 2014, according to Adobe’s Digital Index Euro 2016 Report.
It says that 48% of Europeans frequently switch devices during match viewing or streaming activity. And newspaper giant The Sun is keen to talk up the benefit in producing a constantly changing, cross-device, narrative.
It has teamed up with Kinetic Active, which has built a bespoke content management system (CMS) to control outdoor output across 700 digital screens nationwide. It effectively means The Sun can change the headlines on its nationwide outdoor ads every 15 minutes and react in real time as the goals go in. Its mobile sites, meanwhile, will prioritise content based on the nationality and chosen team of the reader.
To build anticipation for the tournament News UK has already handed out Euro 2016 handbooks in its print. It will also launch an online excuse generator for fans watching the group game between England and Wales; the kickoff at 2pm on a Thursday (16 June) something of a nightmare for British employers.
Chris Duncan, chief customer officer at News UK, says the inclusion of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and even, the Republic of Ireland, will give this tournament an epic feel that could equal the power of Euro 96 – when England reached the semi-finals.
“It is the biggest Euros in memory and there’s an opportunity for brands to achieve something really big if they tap into the traits of each fan. It could be understanding the chants – such as the Northern Irish and the ‘Will Grigg is on fire’ song – or even acknowledging that fans are travelling around France in different ways that achieves loyalty.”
With no David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes or Steven Gerrard, the current England team is made up of much younger players after its supposed golden generation failed to win any trophies.
Joel Seymour-Hyde, VP of Strategy at Octagon, says this will force brands and sponsors to become more creative without the usual star men to rely on.
“There’s less star players so it is more of a challenge. England were blessed with a golden generation and it was beneficial for brands as they had a big portfolio of players to pick from. But Lampard, Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes, Ashley Cole and Terry are all retired now,” he explains.
“While Rooney still has global standout, there seems to be a realisation that humour or narrative must now play a bigger role than simply using star names.”
A threat to the sponsorship model
News UK’s Duncan, meanwhile, believes the brands that are sponsors won’t necessarily be the biggest winners.
He concludes: “It is easier to play a big part in a tournament without being an official sponsor than it ever has been. The rules around what you can do with assets are pretty stringent so a lot of brands have ambushed the official sponsorships really well.
“I’d say 100% that many brands will come out of Euro 2016 deeply associated with it who aren’t even official sponsors. We just hope The Sun can be one of them and help lead the mood of the nation.”
So whether you have a budget on the scale of Coca Cola or not, Euro 2016 and its 24 competing nations are set to provide a golden opportunity to standout among the global football community.
Bobby Brittain, marketing director at Coca-Cola GB
How has being a sponsor of a major football tournament evolved over recent years?
Coca-Cola has a long history with football, having supported major footballing events like FIFA World Cup since 1974 and UEFA European ChampionshipTM since 1988, making us one of the tournament’s oldest partners. Whether watching in the stadium or at home, we always want to create moments for fans to feel part of the action, through our brands, and this year will be no different. As an official sponsor of UEFA Euro 2016 we have focused on a wide range of ‘traditional’ sponsorship and above-the-line activity as well as more innovative and experiential activity to enhance the tournament experience for fans and make it unforgettable.
Here in Great Britain we kicked off our sponsorship with our biggest on-pack ticket giveaway. Fans have been given the chance to win one of 2016 tickets to some of the most hotly-anticipated games in the tournament which has driven excitement with fans in the build up.
On the ground in France we’ll be adding a special Coca-Cola spin on the festivities with the launch of a new collection of bottles in the colours of the competing nations’ flags. We’re celebrating the host nation too by putting players from the French team on 450 million 330ml cans across the country.
For those lucky enough to be attending, we’re planning to keep fans close to the action throughout the tournament. They will be able to enjoy the 2016 championship in new and different ways with 10 fanzones including 200 refreshment areas. Inside the stadium, we’re using the latest in mobile technology to ensure fans don’t miss a minute of action – during games people will be able to order a Coca-Cola directly to their seats.
Will Euro 2016 be the most digital and social media-focused football tournament Coke has been part of?
Digital has enhanced the fan experience and we’re only going to see this continue. Every brand activation and moment we create for fans throughout the championship will be amplified on social media and will enable fans to share their experience instantly. As ever, our own channels, such as ‘Coca-Cola Journey’ will be at the centre of our activity, keeping pace with the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship as it happens, providing up to date articles, reports and special content.
This tournament we are focusing on new exciting ways for consumers to share the experience through digital and social media. As part of this we are working with Copa90, the global football media network, to create a series of Coca-Cola-branded films that tell the story of the tournament from the point of view of the people who make it what it is, the fans. We’ll be asking supporters to share their experiences of UEFA Euro 2016 as it happens.
Talk me through your UK ads around the tournament and what success you’ve seen so far.
Our on-pack promotion has driven excitement with fans in the run up to the tournament and as a result hundreds of winners and their friends are now heading to France to soak up the atmosphere and watch the matches. The promotion has been supported by our overall Uefa Euro 2016 campaign including TV, digital and out of home. We have used visual imagery in this campaign that is in line with the ‘Taste the Feeling’ global campaign that launched in January. The best illustration of this is our advertising which uses a similar creative idea, including the visual style to capture authentic, unscripted moments.