Many of us may feel that there has not been as much anticipation for this year’s UEFA European Football Championship as usual, with the EU referendum dominating the attention of the media, at least in the UK. However, social media activity tells us a completely different story. Over the last month, there have been more than 3 million social media posts related to Euro 2016 in English alone – over 1 million more than the number of posts about Brexit (Source: OMD Impact Report Euro 2016 – to be launched on June 20th).
I must admit that I am one of that rare species that does not get too excited about football: my interest in Euro 2016 comes from identifying how consumer behaviours are changing. Technology is, as expected, set to play a major role in fan engagement, both with the tournament itself and with marketing tie-ins. This is especially interesting when looking at younger audiences whose attention is hard to retain as they use a plethora of devices and channels with which to consume football. There are four main trends that seem to be gaining traction in how we are experiencing and interacting with sporting events:
- Broadcast and live streaming
Television will still lead the attack, but mobile has the potential to take over as traditional television viewership declines, with smartphones and tablets accounting for close to half of streaming views. Due to the rise of over-the-top video platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, sports channels have been forced to think hard about their role in the OTT marketplace.
In the UK, BT Sport has begun a new era of live mass broadcasting: this year was the first time the Champions League final has been streamed live on a social media platform (YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine). Combining TV and digital media, it was the most widely available broadcast of a UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League final ever. BT Sport’s TV channel attracted 4.3 million people for the Champions League final, with an additional 1.8 million from YouTube.
- Dark social
As ad blocking rises and consumers reject more traditional ads, brands are turning to content marketing and social media more than ever. ‘Dark social’ (temporary messaging and broadcasting apps/platforms) is increasingly used by brands to engage on a more personal level with fans, creating a sense of exclusivity.
In the lead-up to Euro 2016, Adidas has activated a Snapchat channel, “Originals”, in collaboration with Pharrell Williams. The launch story generated 3.4 million views over 24 hours, with 87% of users watching the story in full. Adidas will also be using Whatsapp to create dedicated ‘squads’ which will go live on the app during Euro 2016. Members of these ‘squads’ will receive news releases before anyone else as well as invitations to events and access to Adidas’ ambassadors, from athletes to artists. Adidas aims to leverage these initiatives to learn, test and optimise dark social media use.
- Moment marketing
Since dual screening has become a habitual activity for the majority of TV viewers, in recent years more advertisers have trialed and developed tools to tailor targeted advertising content on the second screen. With greater data access, brands have the ability to plan and execute a lot more smartly – serving ads to the right audiences on relevant devices at the right times.
HTC was able to capitalise on the emotional moments that mattered most to fans during the UEFA Champions League to further leverage its sponsorship. The brand targeted people with ads on their mobiles during TV ad breaks and at key in-game moments (goals). The campaign saw outstanding results, specifically, a 100% increase in click-through rates and a 47% reduction in cost per clicks.
- Immersive technology
Recent developments in virtual reality and haptic technologies have activated new forms of live interactions for fans. As consumers have already shown considerable interest in VR and football watching is traditionally a social activity, brands are investing in new viewing experiences which will be utilised during Euro 2016.
UEFA has revealed that certain Euro 2016 finals will be filmed in VR. It is set to become the first major football tournament to employ virtual reality in abundance, after a brief test during the Champions League semi-finals.
I look forward to seeing how things develop both on and off the pitch as the tournament kicks off this Friday. As Dimitri Shostakovich, a prominent Soviet composer and pianist, once said, “Football is the ballet of the masses.” It is a passion that burns in the hearts of billions of fans worldwide, but it is also a passion that I expect will be experienced differently compared to the past.
Best of luck to your national teams!
For more information about the OMD Impact Report Euro 2016, contact [email protected].