UEFA’s European Championship is one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar and with Euro 2020 postponed for a year, the levels of anticipation and excitement in summer 2021 have been higher than ever. Football fever gripped everyone, but why was this tournament such an inescapable event?
For the first time, Euro 2020 was a fully continental competition with matches being played out across Europe in 11 host cities. The purpose of this was to allow smaller countries like Scotland to have the unique opportunity of being involved in staging a major tournament and will give more fans the chance to see their team in play live in their home country. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Logistically, this was the biggest and most challenging tournament to date, made even more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic. With each participating city operating under different restrictions, reduced capacities were imposed on most stadia. This could have limited the success of the tournament, but thanks to a clear and well-planned marketing campaign, everyone was better off as a result.
The importance of a well-thought-out social media strategy
Nowadays, social media is a key component of every successful marketing campaign. The main goal for any social media marketing program is to build brand awareness. @EURO2020, the competition’s official Twitter account, recognised this and began tweeting and whetting people’s appetites long before the tournament started. “When?” I hear you ask. Believe it or not, barely a month after Euro 2016 finished, preparations for the following competition were underway.
Throughout 2017, the account was tweeting, on average, 30 times per day. This resulted in a rise of ~165,000 followers. This is a relatively small gain considering that Twitter has 186 million daily active users. Jump forward to late June 2021 and the account had amassed ~2.4 million followers, gaining 550,000 followers in one month. Naturally, as the tournament kicked off there was a lot to tweet about, but gaining followers in the years prior to the start of the tournament meant that there was an immediate audience with whom to engage, with hundreds of thousands of people sharing content, virtually doing the advertising for UEFA. It’s a similar story with Instagram, where the account has over 8 million followers.
UEFA’s fan-focussed tournament was at risk of being an anti-climax, but the digital marketing team have strived to ensure that fans are still at the heart of the competition. Engaging with such a huge audience has obviously benefitted UEFA, but it has consistently shared high-quality content to its enormous following. Match highlights, interviews, and behind-the-scenes access from training sessions; fans have been well and truly spoilt with the amount of material available online.
‘Appy days for Euros fans
To complement the incredible success on social media, the official UEFA EURO 2020 app was launched. As of 2021, an incredible 92% of UK adults own a smartphone, and by creating a free-to-use mobile app, UEFA saw the potential to reach a huge portion of the population. On the Google Play Store, the app has racked up more than five million downloads. While the figures from the Apple App Store aren’t available to view, the number of downloads is likely in excess of two million, as 30.82% of smartphones in Europe use Apple’s operating system.
The app itself was no gimmick. It had a plethora of features, ranging from in-depth stats and reports on each team and fixture, to a Fantasy Football game and tournament predictor. Not only that, but the Fantasy Football and predictor games were built to be shared on social media as players competed with their friends.
It was also a seriously a useful tool. For fans lucky enough to be in one of the 11 host cities, there were interactive maps that provided information on walking routes and additional transport services. Users of the app received live updates on the latest events and travel news, and it even acted as a digital travel card, so fans could travel for free in selected cities throughout the tournament. These features retained interest throughout the Euros, and having all of this in one app made it an invaluable companion during the tournament.
This approach is similar to what happens during the World Cup due to the vast audience across many countries, as FIFA utilised the sharp rise in interest after the 2018 group stage draw by providing fans with an app that acted as an information hub, as well as giving access to behind-the-scenes content. Over 11 million downloads in the six months leading up to the tournament highlights the success of this. This was complemented with interactive elements during the tournament such as stats, games and highlights. Through this approach, the organisers are able to hold the attention of fans from prior to the start all the way through to the end of the tournament.
By producing social media content from immediately after the previous tournament and building an app with a host of features that can keep the user hooked, UEFA have highlighted the value of long-term planning as the follower and download numbers speak for themselves. They have essentially marketed the tournament as an entertainment package rather than just purely a football tournament through the use of an app with news, stats, games and a schedule planner among other features, as well as regular content across different entertainment channels. Through this they have built an immersive personal connection that generates brand loyalty, and this app is an integral part due to the amount of time people spend on their phones – an average of 3 hours 15 minutes a day. International tournaments have an uncanny ability to draw in huge swathes of the population across various countries, so UEFA have been able to harness this excitement and keep fans focussed on them from which they can drive them to their store and the tournament sponsors.
Despite this being a truly cross-continental tournament, UEFA and its digital team managed to make the tournament feel localised to people in different countries, and clever tools like the app have given users a truly unique experience.
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