Ahead of Euro 2024 soccer tournament, brands look beyond TV to stretch their budgets

We’re 10 weeks out from the Union of European Football Associations’ Euro 2024 tournament, one of the largest sporting events on the planet and a major opportunity for marketers to get their brands in front of enormous audiences. Just 12 days afterward, some of them will be doing it all over again when the Olympic Games roll into Paris.

Though only European teams compete in the Germany-hosted Euro 2024 tournament, soccer has been growing in popularity in the United States in recent years. “There’s Wrexham effect, the Beckham effect and the build-up to the World Cup, which will be in the U.S.A. in a couple of year’s time,” said Toan Ravenscroft, Amsterdam managing director of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment. “It’s like a super-Super Bowl. The scale is there for this summer to be massive.”

Coca-Cola is a top official partner of both Euro 2024 and the International Olympic Committee, and is taking those opportunities to push its Coca-Cola Zero brand. But marketers across Europe will aim for their brands to catch the eyes of audiences, with or without “official partner” status. Media agency EssenceMediacom, for example, is working with both official partner Adidas and clients looking to elbow in through less official routes, such as Subway and sports book Betfair.

For brands looking to connect to Euro 2024 viewers, “TV is still No. 1,” according to Alex Brown, head of sport and entertainment at EssenceMediacom. In the U.S., Fox Sports is set to carry coverage of the tournament. In other key markets such as the U.K., broadcast rights are split between public and private broadcasters (the 2020 final, for example, was shown on both ITV and the BBC).

According to Kieren Mills, head of broadcast at indie media agency Total Media, broadcaster ITV is packaging slots in two tiers, offering higher-priced inventory around the U.K.’s domestic teams (England and Scotland) and cheaper slots for other matches.

International soccer matches have carried the highest price tags in U.K. advertising for a long time, said Mills. “It’s the most expensive spot I’ve ever bought,” he added. At previous tournaments, a 30-second spot during an England game could fetch $223,000 to $310,000. During the 2020 semi-finals, the price of a 30-second spot rose to $622,000.

Dan Sproul, group director at Omnicom sports media agency Fuse, told Digiday he expected that figure to increase if England’s team matches its previous performance at the competition. “Linear TV is going to be a key channel for brands to target, specifically around key matches,” he said in an email.

The sheer viewership associated with England games makes such inventory worthwhile in the eyes of media buyers. Group stage games at the last tournament in 2020 drew an audience of 17.7 million. And Mills suggested such figures might be conservative, given the crowds watching broadcasts away from home.

“If you’re a beer [brand], it makes sense to go for the bigger games that are going to have more people watching in pubs,” he said. Brewer Greene King is among the Total Media clients hoping to take advantage of that to drive halftime on-trade sales among viewers watching TV from the bar.

The size of the Euro 2024 audience attracts brands that aren’t endemic to sports. For instance, energy firm E.ON, a Total Media client, aims to use TV ads as “a real opportunity to cost effectively target the male segment of an upmarket audience and real light and medium viewers you wouldn’t normally get,” Mills said.

Beyond linear 

Brands opting for a TV-first approach to Euro 2024 won’t be stopping with the small screen. For marketers that have opted to allocate a large part of their budget to become a major sponsor, events and experiential marketing add a cost-effective, targeted amplifier.

London-based soccer publisher Footballco, for example, is set to host a viewing party in one part of the city for one tournament sponsor, while also staging the latest edition of its Hotel Mundial viewing parties in another part of London. The latter will match booze and broadcast with a live podcast recording and art installations for fans, providing its retail, gaming, food and beverage sponsors an “opportunity for deeper, more meaningful engagement,” according to Footballco head of strategy Andrew Baker.

However, not every brand has the budget required to access premium TV inventory. And with media consumption habits fragmenting and so many brands competing for attention, marketers are taking a larger range of approaches to the tournament than in previous years.

Display print and out-of-home will likely play a key role, as well audio channels. News UK-owned radio station Talksport, for example, will cover both matches and the build-up to each game. Matt Hamilton, managing partner at media agency Wavemaker, said that radio’s ability to reach consumers around big game moments — in the hours before a game, or for matches scheduled during the working day — means it can be a valuable channel for brands. “There is real opportunity for brands to be connected with the core soccer audience with Talksport,” he said.

Podcasts are another side street marketers are using. Sports book and EssenceMediacom client Sky Bet kicked off a five-month partnership with the Sport Social Podcast Network in April, taking it from the end of this year’s domestic season, through the Euros and to the beginning of the 2024-2025 club season. The partnership adds a reactive element to Sky Bet’s media armory, said Brown, as messaging can be switched up in response to events on and off the field.

Though Sproul told Digiday he expects an “inflated” price of social inventory around the Euro 2024 tournament, channels such as TikTok and Snapchat offer marketers flexibility. Furthermore, the tournament gives marketers a chance to try out their tactics before the Olympic Games.

That’s important for brands thinking ahead to the Olympics and Paralympics, given the fewer paid TV opportunities on offer, said Iris global head of strategy Chris Whitson.

“If you’re not a title sponsor, you’re probably looking for interesting ways to navigate beyond broadcast,” he added.

M&C Saatchi client Old El Paso’s “Make Some Noise for your Home Team” campaign will play out on digital and paid social channels, with supporting influencer partnerships with British Olympian swimmers and weightlifters. “This is going to be the summer that sport lives on social,” said Ravenscroft.

But paid social work should also allow brands to access new audiences showing up for sports making their debut at the Olympic Games, such as skateboarding, breakdancing and surfing.

Iris client Samsung, for example, hopes to activate its sponsorship of Skateboarding UK during the Olympics. “[Niche sports are] massive passion points for certain Gen Z audiences, most of whom are not consuming live sport on TV,” said Whitson.

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