By Tom Bannister
This Sunday, the UEFA European Cup comes to an end, bringing to a conclusion a great tournament, some dramatic plot lines (Wales and Iceland’s unusual success, Brexit, hooliganism) and a festival of branded content. The Euro Cup has continued a trend we have seen through much of 2016 to date, at events like E3, Coachella, SXSW and The Grammys, which is the emergence of live branded content over pre-filmed or planned.
Of course, there have been some great examples of pre-filmed branded content throughout the tournament. Individual brand films have included in Nike’s “The Switch,” a six-minute film in which soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who already has a strong record in branded content, switches bodies with a ball boy (almost a Hollywood plot line). There was also Zlatan Ibrahimovi’s work with Volvo and Hans Zimmer to create a three-minute mood film. Digital series have included Copa90 and Turkish Airlines, which produced a football-themed travel series. And user-submission competitions were run by McDonald’s and Orange, which hired French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane to track down 20 of football’s biggest fans.
These examples aside, the main marketing battle of the tournament seems to have been fought live and, specifically, on live second screen. Indeed, research shows that 88% of Euro watchers were also second screen watchers, with 61% using their phones, 42% on laptops, 25% on tablets, and 24% (amazingly) on desktops. This convergence of second screen and live is where brands are really beginning to battle it out for attention, via content.
Social media, including targeted social posting on Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, was the main arena for live marketing during the Euro Cup, and where a number of interesting trends and plotlines unfolded. Similar to the Super Bowl, brands like Adidas, Carlsberg, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola created 20–50 person war rooms to provide contextual information, play on memes and generally get involved in the social conversation around trending storylines like Wales’ underdog success.
One key interesting social trend was that without the strict handcuffs, guidelines and content approval process of being an official sponsor, some brands could actually be more effective. For example U.K. food store chain Iceland capitalizing well the U.K.’s exit to Iceland, with different types of content from witty one liners to photography assets that included pretending to change their brand name. Some brands took it too far, such as Paddy Powers, which parked a truck emblazoned with England player Jamie Vardy’s controversial catch phrase “chat sh1t, get banged” outside the Russian embassy before the violent England-Russia game and, of course, posting it. “Ambush social media” is an interesting trend to keep an eye on, especially since the The International Olympic Committee is trying oblige host nations to introduce anti-ambush legislation.
Other innovative live marketing initiatives at Euro 2016 included Copa90’s Chatbot keeping fans abreast of latest news on Messenger. (Big Balls Media’s niche bet on football seems to be working out well). There was also Hyundai’s live event “fandome,” a 1,000-capacity venue in London’s King’s Cross showing 45 games and offering a “world-first, live, reactive, 360-degree audio-visual experience,” and lastly Coca-Cola’s live channel on YouTube presenting real-time content from the tournament, including analysis by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Indeed, Coke is an interesting live marketing case study at Euro Cup 2016, as many of their initiatives came closest to threading the needle between brand and direct marketing (which is arguably one of the key advantages live marketing offers to brands). Coke has a Deliver Me app in operation at the two biggest stadiums. Similar direct brand marketing crossovers can be observed in the alcohol marketing around the tournament and show the potential for driving actual sales (rather than just brand lift), as drinking alcohol is so connected with watching the games.
The Olympics is, of course, going to be this years’ true showcase of live branded content in action, but apart from Euro Cup this week has also had Twitter, continuing on from their NBA deal, by live streaming parts of Wimbledon. Watch this space!